Cyber-bullying: What you can do

Cyber bullying occurs when a person, typically a young person is threatened, humiliated or harassed in some way through the use of the internet, telephones or other digital technology. In order for it to be bullying, the intent has to be to cause distress to another and it needs to occur over time.

Examples include sharing embarrassing information about another student on-line, assuming their identity and posting information on the web that makes them look stupid, posting naked photos on-line with another person’s face imposed, or simply sending emails to another person who has asked for no further contact. Students can also be bullied by groups of other students through an on-line community.

Typical signs that a young person is being bullied on-line are when they are spending a lot of time on the computer, they are feeling depressed or having mood swings, they may be crying or having nightmares, and they may be becoming increasingly anti-social. Of course, any out-of-character behaviour should alert parents to check if their child is being bullied on-line, at school, or socially.

So what can you do if your child is being bullied on-line? Firstly, simply talk with your child about the potential for bullying on-line and foster open communication between you and your child. When parents have an open relationship their child, it becomes easier for children to be open with their parents if concerns arise.

Many websites and on-line communities have the facility to have inappropriate material removed and members posting this information to be removed from the community. So it is worth checking out the abuse policies associated with such communities and to make contact with them. If the person posting the message is unwilling to remove it, contact the website administrators tends to bring about a speedy response. If abusive text messages are being received, you can block certain callers by changing the setting on the relevant mobile phone.

Your child’s school may also have a policy on cyber bullying. Speak to the key people at your child’s school, letting them know what is going on. If they are aware of who the perpetrators are, they are in a good position to take action and follow up to ensure the bullying is not continuing. If they are not aware of which students posted the information, they can at least join you in providing support to your child and ensure they are not being harassed or isolated in class. Schools can also run educational programs about bullying, appropriate use of the internet, and strongly promote values of respect, inclusiveness, and acceptance of difference.

Ultimately the meaning your young person associates with what is posted will determine how they respond to it. Explore with your child better if a better perspective can be found. For example – the people who posted this information are not worth the emotional energy, reacting might simply encourage more of the same harassment, or is it a joke that has gone too far? In summary, remember the 3 A’s – be alert, take action, and find the most helpful attitude.

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