Parents – Prevent Cyber Bullying

prevent cyber bullyingA bully used to be the big kid on the playground who pushed the littler kids around, stole their milk money and bloodied their noses. Times have changed and bullying is not only much more prevalent but also more insidious. Nowadays bullying takes the form of insulting rumors and gossip. These vicious verbal attacks are happening via social media and text messaging.

Rumors boost social status and is an effective method that bullies use to climb the social ladder. Young people don’t control the impulse because they don’t stop to think of the consequences. They think it’s all harmless fun. But it isn’t. As we’ve all heard recently, online bullying has led to teens committing suicide because they felt there was no one to help them and they couldn’t handle the embarrassment.

The perceived anonymity of the Internet is greatly responsible for people feeling free to post comments and photos that they might not otherwise. As Lesley Withers, a professor at Central Michigan University, said in 2008, “In the (pre-Internet era), you had to take ownership. People think what they say won’t have repercussions, and they don’t think they have to soften their comments.”

Your child may think it’s a private and innocent moment to be sexting to a boyfriend or girlfriend, but those embarrassing photos and comments can go viral and cause irreparable damage. Once they are posted, they are out there forever. They can’t be retrieved. Not only does this affect your child today, but it can also negatively impact their future.

The truth about the Internet is that no one is anonymous. It can always be traced back to the sender, leaving both the victim and the bully wide open to further bullying. It creates a vicious cycle that often ends in tragedy.

Forty-nine states have laws against school bullying and some websites like Facebook and Twitter are instituting policies against this kind of abuse. Educational programs have been started by parents of bullied/suicide victims to help other students and their parents learn how to cope with it. Many teens don’t know how to talk with their parents or persons in authority about this abuse. My advice is that as a parent you need to start talking with your children about this rapidly growing problem. You may be surprised to hear your child’s response. I also recommend that you read the CNN article, How to Counter Online Bullies.

If you notice your child’s behavior has changed negatively and can’t find out why, don’t delay in getting help! A family therapist can help you communicate openly and begin to heal the hurt your child is experiencing. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office and schedule an appointment now.

For additional information visit my website: Parents – Be Alert to Signs of Bullying.

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