While many parents and educators are familiar with the traditional notions of bullying in schools, a new form of bullying is extending beyond the school and directly into the home.

According to a recent “I-Safe” study, nearly 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online. One in four has had it happen more than once. Thirty-five percent have been threatened online. And, almost one in five has had it happen more than once.

These alarming statistics are a window to a growing problem of Internet harassment that plagues many students – cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying often goes unseen because of the lack of physical marring that is often normally associated with bullying. Parents and caregivers can notice bruises but may not be able to see an insulting text or social media message.  And, as with other forms of abuse, victims may not be share details of the abuse with parents or caregivers.

Cyber bullying allows abuse to invade the home, a place where children should feel the safest.  This exposes the child to constant chiding from insensitive or malicious peers. The fear of further reproof often keeps children from speaking up, forcing them to cope in solitude.

So how do we stop it? The responsibility to help protect children against cyber bullying lies with parents and educators. Here’s a list of steps that can help.

  • Listen

Too often children reach out to teachers and parents who either dismiss the complaints of harassment as childhood bickering. However, it’s essential to remain in tune with the social and educational needs of the children. Look for signs of depression, isolation and anxiety. These could be key indicators of a cyber-conflict.

  • Talk

It may seem like a simple task at times and an arduous one at others, but simply talking to your children can often be the key to protecting them from online harassment. Create a safe zone for conversation where children can feel at ease to simply talk about their experiences.

According to a recent government study,  adults living in households where the youngest child was between the ages of six and 17 spent just 47 minutes per day on primary childcare, which includes activities such as reading to or talking with children. That’s simply not enough.

  • Stay Connected

Getting engaged on the same technology platforms as your child can give you a window into their daily experiences. It won’t hurt you to get a social media profile or begin engaging your child in a text message conversation. That overlying sense of parental supervision will open communication channels.

  • Ask the right questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their friendships in order to get an idea of the environment they live in outside of your home.  The key is to give the child a positive outlet for release and allow the parent to have access into their child’s life.

As this issue becomes more prevalent, school administrators, parents and social networking agencies must take it seriously. It’s our responsibility to behave responsibly and to educate each other while keeping children safe.

If you or someone you know is a victim of cyber bullying, please visit www.bullyinginfo.org or www.isafe.org for more information.

 

JULIE SCHAEFER-SPACE, MS, MLLP – WEST MICHIGAN CAMPUS – UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX  and college instructor of sociology for 8 years.