Cyberbullying Advice for Parents from InternetSafety.com & the Cyberbullying Research CenterNew School Year Raises Concerns about Digital Harassment
ATLANTA, GA (August 18, 2009) – Cyberbullying, the practice of harassing another individual through digital channels such as email, instant/text messaging, and social networking websites, affects roughly one in five children. At times it has led to tragic results such as the recent suicide of Australian teenager Chanelle Rae, who took her own life after nasty messages were circulated online about her appearance. The problem has received national attention in the U.S. as well with a series of highly publicized incidents, including the recent introduction of the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act named after a 13-year-old who committed suicide in 2006 after an online harassment campaign initiated by a friend’s mother.
According to Sameer Hinduja, InternetSafety.com’s cyberbullying expert and co-founder of the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying ups the ante on the age-old practice of bullying in several ways. First, victims often do not know who the bully is or why they are being targeted. The cyberbully can cloak his or her identity behind a computer or cell phone using anonymous email addresses or pseudonymous screen names. Second, the hurtful actions of a cyberbully are viral, enabling an entire school to be involved in a cyber-attack or at least find out about the incident with a few keystrokes. This can add immeasurably to the victim’s trauma.
Signs that a child is being cyberbullied include a marked change in computer habits such as less frequent computer use, nervousness when a new e-mail or instant message arrives, constant looking over his or her shoulder when at the computer, and anger or depression either at or away from the machine.
To deal with cyberbullying, InternetSafety.com and Hinduja recommend strategies such as:
- Working together with the child to arrive at a mutually agreeable course of action, including soliciting input from the child for resolving the situation.
- When necessary, explaining the importance of scheduling a meeting with school administrators (or a trusted teacher) to discuss the matter.
- Refraining from immediately banning access to instant messaging, e-mail, social networking Web sites, or the Internet in general. Hinduja warns that this strategy neither addresses the underlying interpersonal conflict nor eliminates current or future instances of cyberbullying victimization. It will also likely close off a candid line of communication and promote overt defiance of the ban for children accustomed to frequent online access.
- Paying even greater attention to victimized children’s Internet and cell phone activities.
- Considering installing parental control filtering software and/or an online tracking program like Safe Eyes (http://www.safeeyes.com) to block emails from known cyberbullies, monitor and record online chat sessions, or in extreme cases block IM, email or social networking sites completely. Over 70% of teens surveyed by the National Crime Prevention Council reported that being able to block cyberbullies was the most effective method of prevention.
“If you’re using filtering and blocking software, tell your children about it and explain why you have chosen to take that step,” Hinduja said. “Open communication is key to maintaining the level of trust that children need to confide in their parents about problems they are having—online or offline.”
“While cyberbullying rarely ends in suicide, these extreme cases demonstrate just how harmful the practice can be,” said Joe Stradinger, Chief Evangelist for InternetSafety.com. “The Internet and other new communication methods have made bullying much more potent and troublesome, and parents need to be vigilant to protect their children from serious emotional harm.”
For more on cyberbullying, visit the InternetSafety.com blog at http://blog.internetsafety.com/ and the Cyberbullying Research Center blog at http://blog.cyberbullying.us/
InternetSafety.com™ has been a leading provider of web filtering solutions for consumers and businesses since 1999. The company's flagship software, Safe Eyes®, is the two-time recipient of the PC Magazine Editors' Choice Award, earned a separate Editor's Choice Award from LAPTOP Magazine, and was rated as the #1 parental control solution by America's leading consumer advocacy publication. Other products include Safe Eyes Mobile, the first family-safe browser for the iPhone; EtherShield, a network-level solution offering plug-and-play Internet filtering for business environments; and Safe Eyes Business, an end-point filtering service for businesses of any size. The company's products are used by customers in more than 150 countries.
About the Cyberbullying Research Center
The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. The organization’s website at http://wwwcyberbullying.us/ serves as a clearinghouse of information concerning the ways adolescents use and misuse technology. It is intended to be a resource for parents, educators, law enforcement officers, counselors, and others who work with youth, offering facts, figures, and detailed stories from those who have been directly impacted by online aggression as well as numerous resources for helping prevent and respond to cyberbullying incidents.