Cyberbullying: What It Is and How To Help Protect Your Children

The digital revolution has brought about some amazing tools and technology that’s changed not only the way we collect information, but how we live our day-to-day lives. People increasingly use smartphones to connect to the Internet, and 27 percent of digital media users access their news on a mobile device, according to InternetServiceProviders.com.

These developments have a dark side, however. Misguided young people are using technology to harass their peers. Cyberbullying is the relatively recent term used to identify harassment that takes place using digital technology. Some examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
  • Text messages containing hateful remarks
  • Posting embarrassing pictures that are real or altered
  • Fake profiles used to post untrue statements

Educators, Lawmakers Take Action

Recently, educators, scholars and lawyers met at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., to discuss who is responsible when cyberbullying occurs outside of school and past school hours. According to the state’s 2011 Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, school systems must investigate instances of bullying if it disrupts or disturbs the educational environment.

Since most students have access to some type of smartphone, instances of cyberbullying through text messages, Facebook and Twitter have been on the rise. After several teen suicides were linked to possible cyberbullying, legal and policy experts are having a hard time keeping up with technological advances and new types of bullying. The biggest problem seems to be determining who is at fault when a tragedy occurs as the result of online bullying. Should the school officials, the child bully, the parents, or some combination of these be held responsible?

In Canada, the Novia Scotia government has recently passed the Cyber Safety Act, which address the problem of cyberbullying and clarifying the lines about responsibility. Canada hopes tougher laws will deter people from using the Internet for harm. According to the Cyber Safety Act, the new law will allow victims of bullying to apply for a court order to stop the harassment. A judge can also rule to ban a person from using specific types of social media if they have been found guilty of cyberbullying. Violating the terms of a court order could result in fines of up to $5,000, ctvnews.ca reported. Hopefully this new law will make people think about what they are posting online before they make a big mistake.

How to Protect Your Child

Stopbullying.gov suggests ways parents can help protect their children from online bullies. These methods include:

  • Know the sites your children are visiting and monitor these sites frequently
  • Use a parental filtering system to protect children from adult content
  • Check out the devices and applications your children are using. Follow them on Twitter, check the pictures on Tumblr, access their Facebook account and make sure there is no inappropriate content
  • Encourage your children to notify you if they are being harassed, or if they know of another child being harassed. Children need to know it is alright to talk with an adult about harmful online activity

Posted by CJ Newton, MA, Counseling.info Editor on May 6, 2013 at 05:00 AM

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