Cyberbullying is a dangerous two-way street

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on December 21, 2011 with No Comments

Far too often these days, we hear of incidents in which a child or teen ends his life as the result of cyberbullying.

Both the term “cyberbullying” and its attending behaviors and results have become part of daily life, especially for students.

A recent assessment by an i-SAFE America research team discovered more than half of 1500 students surveyed nationwide had somehow been involved in cyberbullying. Ranging from fourth- to eighth-graders, 58 percent admitted someone had said mean or hurtful things to them online; 53 percent admitted to being the ones having said something mean or hurtful to another online; 42 percent had simply been bullied while online.

Forms of bullying may involve youth pretending they are other people online to trick others, spreading lies and rumors about victims, tricking people into revealing personal information, sending or forwarding mean-spirited text messages and posting pictures of victims without their consent.

In general, cyberbullying involves any use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.

As always, it’s your job to determine if your child is in any way involved in this insidious behavior. As caring adults, we have to acknowledge cyberbullying is a two-way street, and your child may just as likely be the bully as the victim.

If you do discover that your child is the one being cyberbullied, first assure him it’s not his fault and make him feel safe and secure. Let him know that both you and he want the cyberbullying to stop and work together on a mutually agreeable course of action.

Depending upon the type of bullying, your plan may involve meeting with school officials; contacting the parent of the offender; working with the Internet Service Provider, Cell Phone Service Provider, or Content Provider to investigate the issue or remove the offending material; or, in the case of physical threat, involving the police.

What you don’t want your child to do is seek revenge on the bully, avoid his friends and activities, or cyberbully back.

But, what if your child is the one headed in the wrong direction on this cyberspace street?

If he is the one perceived to be the bully, he could very well think what he is doing is not a big deal or not have thought about the consequences. After all, we are talking about children and teens.

Regardless, they have been engaging in behaviors that can have very dire consequences. Severe cyberbullying has been known to leave victims at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders. At the very least, as the perpetrator, your child has hurt someone’s feeling and is on the way to getting in trouble.

In talking with the bullying child, be a good, nonjudgmental listener so that you can find out what is really going on.

Are others involved in the bullying?

Is your child struggling with an unknown issue?

Make him aware of the impact of his behavior and remind him of the need for empathy, respect, and compassion. Set clear expectations and consequences for violating them. He must know that loss of privileges, especially the use of cell phones and computers, or a face-to-face apology to the victim will be enforced.

If your child doesn’t understand that his behavior is unacceptable or you can’t get him to discuss the situation, you may need to talk with teachers, guidance counselors, and/or administrators for help in identifying situations that led to the bullying.

Should it become apparent your child has anger issues, a professional clinician can help him learn to handle his feelings more positively.

As always, your duty is to guide your child down a positive lane in his life’s journey. He’ll make a wrong turn from time to time, but you and a cadre of willing professionals will be there to help him safely navigate that very bumpy road to adulthood.

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About Harriet Fagan

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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