Cyberbullying is an issue that must be addressed by parents and schools. Cell phones are a fixture in our lives nowadays, that we rely on; but with the technology of cell phones, computer and electronic devices comes responsibility. Parents and educators need to outline and enforce the rules for children to clearly understand what is appropriate/ non-appropriate behavior. We need to learn the new ABC’s for today’s technology:

*A is for awareness of the technology our children use

*B is Beware! of the good and bad use of technology

*C is for caring, teaching our children not be cyberbullies or to be victims

When a parent gives a child a cell phone, it is as dangerous as handing your child a loaded gun. Without clear and definitive rules to act as a safety catch to prevent cyberbullying, the cell phone can, and has been, a deadly weapon.

Children in the second grade have reported being the bully and being victimized; the cyberbully uses email, text messaging, blog posts and Web sites such as Facebook and other social networking sites, with the intent to embarrass , harass, intimidate or make threats on line. Victims of cyberbullies are twice as likely to attempt suicide.[1]

Parenting is not a democracy, but an oligarchy where the mother, father, and extended family govern a child. There is no Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to have a cell phone or computer, game boxes, or any other electronic device.

Owning and using a cell phone and computer is a privilege. If there is an instance of cyberbullying, such as:

*posting embarrassing pictures of someone

*texting nasty remarks

*sexting (the sending and posting pictures of one’s body)

revoke access to the cell phone, computer and all Web sites.  Parents need to know passwords and monitor the incoming and outgoing texts on the cell phone and computer on such social networking sites as blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Google+, Twitter and others. There are over forty popular websites,[2]so it is imperative to know what ones your child is using. Or abusing.

The social networks make it seem easy to be popular by collecting friends, or “friending”. Parents need to emphasize there is a difference between “friending” and being a friend.  A friend shares likes, dislikes, hobbies, and values.  If you don’t know what your online buddy thinks or feels about important issues, then  you may become a target of cyberbullying.

Children are bullied for many reasons, but cyberbullying is the fastest way to spread rumors, especially about someone’s sexual orientation. Victims are tricked into giving out personal information, have unauthorized pictures posted and have lies disseminated by people that pretend to be friends. It was bad enough to endure this type of torture from a select group at school, but now the cyberbully has an unlimited audience to exploit and terrorize another being. The damage that can be done to some one’s self-esteem is incalculable.

There are good reasons to talk with your children about cyberbullying. You must emphasize to your child:

*Any post is traceable back to the sender, which means, even if deleted, a text or picture can be retrieved.

*Once in cyberspace, that image is forever. Make it very clear to your children that there are consequences that can have repercussions for a lifetime. That post Jane sent to Dick of her nude can land on a porn site, or show up on a potential employer’s  screen during an interview for a job, or internship, or on the cell phone of  a future spouse.

*Never give out a password or agree to meet with anyone face to face alone.

*And worse, if that posted text or image drives another person to suicide, do you want to have that on your conscience?

Aside from the moral issue, consider the financial and legal aspects. In one case, classmates of a young boy stole and posted a video that exposed the boy playing out a fantasy; he was harassed daily, being made fun of endlessly at school and on social networks. This young boy sued the parents of the boys who invaded his privacy and won a judgment of $350,000.00. Because of the media coverage of the suicides of Megan Meir and Phoebe Prince, laws have been enacted to protect victims and prosecute the cyberbullies.  States, the leaders being California and Washington, are giving  schools authority to punish offenders off campus. If caught and convicted, your child could be suspended, expelled, or jailed. You, the parent, could be held liable.

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it is unfortunately, incumbent upon you to have a record to provide proof of text messages, and/or pictures. It is very important to tell your child that he or she is not at fault. Too many times, we as parents  minimize the emotional impact that peer rejection has upon a child. At the very least, your support and willingness to act is necessary. Studies have shown that it is more effective  when school authorities intervene; bullies and victims respect decisions made by teachers and the administration. As a parent, then, being involved with the school is paramount so that you can protect the interests of your child by being a voice, an advocate for your child.

The one thing schools can do that has proven beneficial for all those involved in the cycle of bullying, the victims, the by-standers, and the bully, too, is to have an anti-bullying policy. It can be as simple as signing a document stating :

“I will not be a bully. I will not be bullied. I will not tolerate anyone being bullied.”  This gives a clear, concise message to everyone.

At home, parents can teach their children how to get along and share with siblings, never allowing for the dominant one to bully the others.  The one thing noticeable in bullies is the lack of empathy, and social skills. Parents and teachers can be positive role models and exemplify co-operation, anger management and teach problem solving methods.

There are many excellent websites to go to for both parent and child on what to do about being cyberbullied. A few are listed below.

*www.stopcyberbullying.org

*www.wiredsafety.com

*www.ncpc.org


Bullying is an issue from cradle to grave. In play groups, we introduce negotiation skills when three-year-olds snatch toys, bite and throw temper tantrums; kindergarten we teach five year olds how to co-operate.  By second grade, we need to teach our kids responsible behavior in cyberspace.

We parents need to monitor our children, and ourselves. We as parents and educators must be good examples. Our children face a barrage of negative influences daily. Parents can talk, talk and talk. Sometimes you feel like you are talking to an alien being, but your child, and yes, your teen, is listening. And watching. Think about the implicit message you send when you talk on the cell phone while driving, even though it is illegal. If you do not have to obey the law, your child does not either. If you bad-mouth others, your child has permission to do likewise.

Technology is changing on a daily basis. It can be good or bad for our children. Parents must determine when, what, and how much access to the burgeoning cyberworld to allow their children; then arm them with information and enforce rules of behavior to ensure their safety against being cyberbullied or being the cyberbully. Hand your child a cell phone, not a weapon.


cyberbullyingBio:

Jacquie Ream was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and was raised in San Bernardino, California. She attended college on writing scholarships (Pitzer, Claremont and Cal-State SB) completing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Washington.  She has written one how-to-write book, KISS, a historical fiction novel, Forcing the Hand of God, and three of five children’s books that deal with complex issues of bullying: Bully Dogs, YNK (You Never Know) and A Penny In Time.

Jacquie is an author, speaker and anti-bullying advocate. Her premise is simple:  bullying is something no child should have to endure.

Her Don’t Be a Bully Dog! program uses fictional characters from the book Bully Dogs in workshops to discuss the topic of bullying in all forms.

The program is FREE to all educators, schools, youth groups, and parents’ groups across the state of Washington that are looking for creative ways to fight the war on bullying. More info about the program is available at www.jacquieream.com.

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from the “Don’t Be a Bully Dog” anti-bullying program, please contact: Jacquie at jacquieream.com cyberbullying.



[1] Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D.  Cyberbullying Research Center

[2] . http://socialmediatoday.com/soravjain/195917/40-most-popular-social-networking-sites-world