September 12, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

Over the past few years, there has been more attention drawn to bullying in schools. Of course, we are all familiar with the typical “bully” who lurks in the school hallway waiting to make fun of us, knock our books out of our hands, or shake us down for money.

Technology has extended into everything, and that includes bullying. It is a serious problem. Bullies can now use computers, PDA’s and cell phones to get their kicks. One of the biggest things that aids cyberbullying is the relative anonymity that cyberbullies enjoy. They can accomplish their task anytime, anywhere, with only a few keystrokes or pushed buttons, out of the sight of anyone.

Because of this, cyberbullies can easily accelerate from mere teasing to stalking, harassment, and even threatening behavior. And, because of the wide reach of electronic media, a young person can be harassed before their group of friends as messages are forwarded and sent to whole address books. Indeed, you may remember the story in 2010 of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who hanged herself after being taunted online for months.

What can you and your child do to reduce the chance of cyberbullying happening?

As with most things involving children, we as parents have the responsibility to monitor and limit our children’s use of electronic media. Keep computers in open areas and use shared passwords. Use parental controls that come with your operating software or through a separate computer program. Avoid sharing personal information online.

Watch for changes in your child’s behavior. Has their routine changed? Have they stopped going to otherwise favorite activities? Are they inventing illnesses to avoid school? These could all be signs of a young person being bullied.

If you determine that your child is being bullied – cyber or otherwise – one of the best ways to deter a bully is to ignore their messages. Block messages or numbers from phones, create e-mail rules in Outlook to send messages from certain senders directly to the recycle bin, block access, or “defriend “ people on Facebook.

If the bullying persists, the bully must be reported. Most schools have begun anti-bullying programs. If your school does not have one, go to the school administration. Social networking sites have methods of reporting inappropriate behavior on their site – use these services. If necessary, contact the police for assistance. Remember to keep copies of bullying communication to provide to authorities.

While technology in most instances is great, we always have the responsibility to keep our children safe.