Words can have powerful meanings to people. For example, if I mention the word alcoholic, most people conjure up a middle aged to older adult, sitting on a park bench, clothes disheveled and drinking out of a paper bag. If I mention the word bully, most people conjure up a middle school to high school student, of larger appearance, twisting other kids arms and stealing their lunch money.
This is a notion of the past. With today's technology, anyone can be a bully. It can be the 13-year-old cheerleader, the 15-year-old football player, the 17-year-old Valedictorian of the school, or it could be the boy or girl next door, who has never been in any trouble. With technology and the Internet today, there is a more treacherous and feared bully, the cyber bully.
The cyber bully will send someone cruel, mean, threatening and unrelenting messages to their target victim. They can spread rumors about the other person on the Internet, that others are gay, have STD's, are sexually promiscuous, etc. They can take another's picture in the locker room while getting dressed for gym and place it on the Internet. Cell phones now usually have the capability to take pictures, so this has become a more widely used tactic in harming others. Tricking a person into believing that you are their friend and then taking sensitive information and distributing it to others. The list of cruel things that can be done goes on. Kids are even receiving threats in text messages on their cell phones.
The old saying used to be "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me". Unfortunately words are extremely powerful and have brought some children and adolescents to commit suicide, due to being ridiculed, made fun of and basically mentally tortured.
What can you do? There are lots of tips on how to help prevent or stop cyber bullying. You should keep the computer in a public area in the home, where others can see what is going on online. Talk to your child about never revealing private information such as their phone number or address, or other private information about himself or herself that can be used against them. Understand the websites that they are going to and be able to identify their friends that they are sending chats or Instant Messages to. Talk to your kids about telling an adult if they are being bullied. Discuss cyber bullying and how to keep safe on the Internet. Lastly, teach your child to tell the cyber bully to stop. If your child is being threatened or has vicious letters, pictures or any other form of cyber bullying about them online, first you need to save the evidence. You can find the ISP of the cyber bully, from your Internet provider. If the cyber bully is in the same school, you can contact the school to have a meeting with the cyber bully and their parents. Most school districts are now adopting policies regarding cyber bullying as this has become a very wide spread problem. One third of all teenagers are victims of cyber bullying. If the cyber bully attends another school, you can contact their parents and provide evidence of what their child is doing online. You can either meet with their parents or send them mail regarding their Childs' online activity.
There are some forms of cyber bullying that need more than face-to-face contact with parents and the need to have law enforcement involved. If your child is being sexually exploited online, threatened with physical violence, a victim of a sexual predator, or a hate crime. Contact the police immediately and have them investigate your case. Some parents have utilized monitoring software to understand what their child is doing online. Safe Computer Kids has monitoring software and an Instant Message Dictionary that parents find useful, in keeping track of what their child is doing online.