Ashley was a 10-year-old boy who had a large followership on his Facebook account, as a result of his art skills. He draws and posts his drawings on his page for his followers to see. Ashley was becoming a familiar figure online. A few months ago, the unexpected happened – an unknown person created a fake account in Ashley’s name. The cloned account had Ashley’s details as well as his posts on his original account. The bully exploited Ashley’s followers’ trust by sending multiple messages claiming all the drawings weren’t Ashley’s but someone else’s. Two weeks ago, Ashley’s over 1500 fans had dropped drastically to a few hundred. Ashley subjected to the bully by closing his original page. The bully was after one thing – to exploit Ashley’s naivety and ridicule him among his followers. The bully was helped by the fact that Ashley’s parents weren’t ready to listen to Ashley’s report. He was bullied into irrelevance. These kinds of bullying and much more are regularly witnessed by teens over the Internet in the United States.
Cyberbullying occurs when a child or teenager is harassed, threatened, humiliated, embarrassed or targeted by another teen via information technology networks. Cyberbullying can take many forms. It may be in the form of exclusion, by which others intentionally exclude a teenager from an online group. Cyberstalking is another form of cyber bullying. In cyber stalking, the cyber bully harasses its victim by always sending offensive emails and messages. Cyberbullies also post or send cruel messages aimed at harming their victims’ reputation, confidence or friendships. A cyberbullied child may be at the receiving end of mean and offensive words. Other forms of cyberbullying are cyber threats and use of fake accounts or profile pages to exploit a teenager’s trust. Most of the various forms of cyberbullying are carried out on social media by teenagers.
Frequently, widely distributed Cyberbullying messages and images are posted by anonymous persons. In such cases, the identities of cyberbullies are often difficult or impossible to trace at times. Additionally, kids that are cyberbullied do not tell their parents. According to the Harford County Examiner, only 1 in 10 teens reports the incidence of cyberbullying to their parents. Many children fear of getting into more trouble by saying. Thus, cyberbullying activities could be hard to curtail. However, as a parent, there are certain things you could do to help your kids cope with cyberbullying. Some of these things are as follows:
Learning About the Internet: As a parent of a child that frequently use the internet, the first major thing to do is to learn how the internet works. You can gather enough knowledge about how the internet works by becoming an active internet user yourself. Another option is by garnering knowledge about the web, both from online and offline (e.g. library). You will need a reasonable understanding of the internet to help your children in coping with cyberbullying.
Talk to Your Children about Cyberbullying: A lot of children do not know what cyber bullying means. Many cyberbullies don’t understand the gravity of their acts. As a parent/guardian, you need to educate your child on the danger of cyberbullying others or being cyberbullied. Explain to them how negatively such acts can impact on their lives. Let them know replying or sending mean or offensive messages is very wrong. Also, inform them on how much they may hurt themselves by keeping the incidence of cyberbullying to themselves. Be available to discuss the dangers of information technology networks with your children.
Encourage Your Kids to Speak Up: Being subjected to persistent bullying on the cyberspace can have severe consequences on children. Many victims of cyberbullying have committed suicide. It is important you let your children know the relevance of speaking up when they suspect they are being cyberbullied. Let them know anyone could be a target of cyberbullying and that it is never the victim’s fault. Guarantee them they would be helped and not punished for speaking up. The earlier they speak up, the better!
Do Not Take Cyberbullying Reports Lightly: It is a common thing for parents to react to their children’s reports of cyberbullying as “a kid to kid’ matter. This attitude is appalling. Never shrug off reports of cyberbullying by teenagers. Do not tell them to deal with bullying on their own, when they report to you. It is your duty to address every of their struggles, whether online or offline.
Monitor Your Children’s Activities Online: In as much as you would want to respect their privacies, ensure you keep close tabs on their activities on the internet. Be aware of what they do, who their friends are, which website they visit and what they post online. You Google your kid’s name to see if anything is being said about him/her on the internet.
Limit Their Access to the Computer at Home: It may be a difficult decision to make, but ensure you keep the computer in a common area of your home. Do not grant your children access to the internet in their private rooms, until they are matured enough. Also, ensure they do not use the internet at certain periods such as late in the night.
Assist Your Children in Keeping Their Privacy Settings High: Teach them about the dangers of disclosing their online passwords to anyone except their parents. Tell them never to write their password down in places where others could access them. Furthermore, advise them not to connect with anyone they do not know offline. Admonish them not give their email address or phone numbers to strangers. Ensure they do not share their private details on their social media pages.
Help Your Kids Deal with Cyberbullies: You can do this by helping your children block the person cyber bullying them. You can also report to the parents of the cyber bullies if it involves characters you know. In cases that involve cyber threats or sexual harassment, you can help your children report to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Keep Necessary Cyberbullying Evidence: If your kid is a victim of extreme cyberbullying, you will need more than enough evidence in prosecuting the case. Tell your child not delete any image or message from the cyber bully. You can help your kid to screenshot the cyberbullying message as well as save the pictures. Be sure you keep every detail that could help you in prosecuting the cyber bully. Ensure you print out all the necessary evidence before reporting to the police.
Employ the Service of a Therapist: If your kid has been continually cyberbullied, ensure you take him/her to see a therapist.
The effects of cyberbully can be brutal on a teenager. In the earlier story, we got to know how a cyber bully subdued Ashley’s reputation. Apart from reduced self-esteem, a Cyberbullied teen may suffer depression and anxiety. Many victims of the cyberbullying result to the use of drugs and alcohols. Educationally, a teen that suffer cyberbullying experiences fall in his/her grades and may lead to skipping classes. Health-wise may develop ulcer, headaches, stomach aches and other physical ailments, due to changes in their eating and sleep patterns. In extreme cases, a cyberbullied child may commit suicide. Your child may be the next Ashley, how he can cope with Cyberbullying is largely up to you. Is he going to close his account down like Ashley, or take the right actions and weather through the attack? It is your responsibility to prevent and protect your child from being cyberbullied like Ashley.
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