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Cyber Bullying - How to Beat the 24/7 Bully

When you hear that one in five children around the world is bullied every week at school, it’s enough to make you nervous. Then you find out that many more are cyber bullied and, for many parents, it gets downright scary. Particularly because a lot of us don’t even know what the term ‘cyber-bullying’ means.

“It can take many forms,” says Rosalie O’Neale, a senior adviser in the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Cybersafety Programs. “It can be in-your-face texting of abusive messages, could be something that happens on gaming sites, can be exclusion – being left off Facebook pages or Bebo or email lists – or it could be using those networks to distribute doctored photographs, for example.”

Depending on the research and the children surveyed, anywhere between three and 20 per cent of Australian children have experienced some form of this behaviour.

Cyber Bullying – the Silent Epidemic

The worst part is that a parent probably won’t know if it’s happening at their house. “In many cases, it’s not reported to parents,” says O’Neale. “It’s tragically well hidden.”

It may also be happening to kids who don’t seem like ‘traditional’ targets for bullying. “Online, you can be anybody and it can be the confident kids who are being targeted by the ones who are being bullied in the playground as a means of revenge,” says O’Neale. “There’s nothing predictable about it.” Which is not to say that there’s nothing that can be done about it.

“It’s really important to create opportunities for your child to share with you,” says Evelyn M. Field, a practising psychologist and author of Bully Blocking. “Open communication is vital.”

She also recommends keeping the computer in an open place and checking email inboxes occasionally, just to see who’s writing to your children.  “Don’t just trust that everything’s all right,” she says. “They won’t tell you.”

Educate Yourself

It’s also time for you to get educated. “Parents need to start understanding,” says Field. “Go to any workshops that the school offers, buy the books – know what’s going on.”

If you do come across a problem, O’Neale suggests taking the following steps:

- report it to the school; much of the bullying happens within peer groups

- report it to your ISP and/or mobile phone provider, depending on how the messages are coming in

- use the ‘report abuse’ buttons on the sites your child is frequenting

- “The other place you can go, depending on the type of bullying behaviour, is the police,” she says.

One thing that she doesn’t recommend is removing the child’s technology. “You can suggest they turn off the phone or stay away from the computer,” she says. “But this technology is also their access to their real friends. If you take away the technology to protect them, you’re also cutting them off from their support systems.”

Help Your Kids Stand Up to Cyber Bullies

1. Let them know that if they tell you about cyber-bullying, it takes the power from the bullies.

2. Teach them to ignore SMS messages and not to respond to hurtful emails. If they don’t feed the trouble, it may go away.

3. Validate your child by taking their concerns seriously.

4. Use the services available to you to block the bullies from accessing your child.

5. Don’t take things into your own hands. Go through other school policies or communication channels.

6. Teach your child to stand up for someone being targeted by a bully. If everyone stood up to bullies they’d look a lot  smaller.

Comments (1)

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem's picture

Great post Allison! I saw a

Great post Allison!

I saw a really good presentation on this subject at one of our school's P&F General Meetings last year. We had a great handout, which included a copy of a post written by a (then) 16yr old Melb boy, Tom Wood, who had his own blog, The Wood Verdict (don't think he has continued it). He gave a great rundown on how both kids and parents can deal with cyberbullying, and tips on what to do if you face a cyberbully.

Here's the link: http://thewoodverdict.blogspot.com/2008/04/tom-woods-complete-guide-to-s...

Worth a read. :) x