Is Your Child Being Bullied In Cyberspace

Reprinted with permission from PACER

If the word “bullying” makes you think of one child picking on another in the schoolyard, it may be time to update your image of this important problem.

While such face-to-face harassment certainly still exists, new ways of bullying have emerged. With the proliferation of cell phones, instant messaging, social networking Web sites such as MySpace, and other technologies, bullying has muscled its way into cyberspace.

Cyberbullying, as this new technological danger is called, may already have happened to your child. According to a study done by wiredsafety.org, 90 percent of middle-school students say they have been the victims of this new form of bullying. Perhaps more sobering, only 15 percent of parents even know what cyberbullying is, according to another study by the group.

Cyberbullying: What it is and how it works

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate another person. It can be done anonymously, which makes it easy for one child to hurt another and not be held accountable or see the impact of his or her actions. Because this technology reaches a wider audience than just the person who is targeted, its effects can be devastating.

This form of bullying can take place in many ways. For example, some young people have discovered sites where they can create a free Web page—including one intended to bully another child. Embarrassing pictures, private instant messaging (IM) exchanges, and hateful or threatening messages can be posted on these sites. Some young people also post mean comments at legitimate Web sites’ guest books. Others post blogs (short for “Web logs”), information that is instantly published to a Web site. Bullies have found blogging to be a powerful tool when encouraging peers to gang up on another child.

Cyberbullies, like schoolyard bullies, look for targets who are vulnerable, socially isolated, and may not understand social norms. Many children with disabilities have these characteristics, and so they may be especially vulnerable to cyberbullying.

Your 3-step plan to protect your children from cyberbullying

Today’s children are the first generation to experience cyberbullying. Today’s parents are the first to figure out how to respond to the problem.

As you venture into this new territory, here are some tips that you may find helpful, says Julie Hertzog, PACER’s bullying prevention project coordinator.

  1. Raise the topic of cyberbullying with your children.

Many children are afraid to initiate such a conversation because they fear that their access to the Web and cell phones will be eliminated; others are scared to admit that they are being bullied. Open the subject for discussion and let your children know that you want them to have some cyber freedom—but that it needs to be safe.

  1. Set cyber safety rules.

You set safety rules for your children in the physical world. Do the same in cyberspace. Remind your children that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. It could be the person they think it is, or it could be a predator or a bully. With that in mind, two good guidelines are, “Don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person. Don’t reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.”

Specific advice for your children might include:

Never give out your e-mail password, a photo, or any personal data, such as a physical description, phone number, or address. A bully could use that information to harass you in many ways.

Never share too many personal details. For example, if you keep an online diary, someone could use that information to bully or ridicule you.

Never share your IM account password with anyone, even your best friend. That friend may share it with other people, or the friendship may end—and your private messages could suddenly become very public. Also, a cyberbully with your password can sign on, pretend to be you, and behave inappropriately with others to embarrass and humiliate you.

  1. Know what your children are doing online.

Privacy is important, but safety is more important. As a parent, you have a responsibility to know what your children are doing online. Keep your children’s computer in an open spot, such as the family room, where you can supervise Web activity. If your children have an account on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, for example, know how to access it so you can monitor the communications. If you do discover that your children are subjected to cyberbullying, document it by printing the e-mails or Web pages, saving electronic copies, and contacting your children’s school or the police.

Technology offers your children many advantages and benefits—and, occasionally, some risks. The solution is not to remove their access to technology but rather to manage the risks. You can do that by being aware of your children’s cyber activities, learning about new technologies, and adding “cyber parenting” to your list of talents.

Cyberlife by the numbers—a new world for many parents

Cyberbullying

22% of students know someone who has been bullied online.*

19% of students admit to saying something hurtful to others online.*

12% of students have personally become upset by strangers online.*

* Based on a 2005–06 survey of 13,000 students in grades 5-12.

Kids Online

58% of students admit to using the Internet unsafely, inappropriately, or illegally.

55% of students report having given out personal information (e.g. name, age, gender, home address) to someone they have only met online.***

31% of students have a personal Web page. ***

*** Based on a 2005–06 survey of 12,000 students in grades 5 – 12.

Digital Divide

93% of parents say they have established rules for their child’s Internet activity.*

37% of students report being given no rules from their parents on using the Internet.**

95% of parents say they know “some” or “a lot” about where their children go or what their children do on the Internet.*

41% of students do not share where they go or what they do on the Internet with their parents.**

26% of students believe their parents would be concerned if they knew what they did on the Internet.**

* Based on a 2004–05 pre-assessment survey of 1,350 parents.
** Based on a 2005–06 pre-assessment survey of 12,650 students in grades 5-12.
Statistics from the Internet safety organization i-safe and its sister group, Teenangels. Learn more at www.isafe.org and www.teenangels.org.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

 

Is Your Child Being Bullied In Cyberspace

Reprinted with permission from PACER

If the word “bullying” makes you think of one child picking on another in the schoolyard, it may be time to update your image of this important problem.

While such face-to-face harassment certainly still exists, new ways of bullying have emerged. With the proliferation of cell phones, instant messaging, social networking Web sites such as Facebook, and other technologies, bullying has muscled its way into cyberspace.

Cyberbullying, as this new technological danger is called, may already have happened to your child. According to a study done by wiredsafety.org, 90 percent of middle-school students say they have been the victims of this new form of bullying. Perhaps more sobering, only 15 percent of parents even know what cyberbullying is, according to another study by the group.

Cyberbullying: What it is and how it works

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate another person. It can be done anonymously, which makes it easy for one child to hurt another and not be held accountable or see the impact of his or her actions. Because this technology reaches a wider audience than just the person who is targeted, its effects can be devastating.

This form of bullying can take place in many ways. For example, some young people have discovered sites where they can create a free Web page—including one intended to bully another child. Embarrassing pictures, private instant messaging (IM) exchanges, and hateful or threatening messages can be posted on these sites. Some young people also post mean comments at legitimate Web sites’ guest books. Others post blogs (short for “Web logs”), information that is instantly published to a Web site. Bullies have found blogging to be a powerful tool when encouraging peers to gang up on another child.

Cyberbullies, like schoolyard bullies, look for targets who are vulnerable, socially isolated, and may not understand social norms. Many children with disabilities have these characteristics, and so they may be especially vulnerable to cyberbullying.

Your 3-step plan to protect your children from cyberbullying

Today’s children are the first generation to experience cyberbullying. Today’s parents are the first to figure out how to respond to the problem.

As you venture into this new territory, here are some tips that you may find helpful, says Julie Hertzog, PACER’s bullying prevention project coordinator.

  1. Raise the topic of cyberbullying with your children.
    Many children are afraid to initiate such a conversation because they fear that their access to the Web and cell phones will be eliminated; others are scared to admit that they are being bullied. Open the subject for discussion and let your children know that you want them to have some cyber freedom—but that it needs to be safe.
  2. Set cyber safety rules.
    You set safety rules for your children in the physical world. Do the same in cyberspace. Remind your children that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. It could be the person they think it is, or it could be a predator or a bully. With that in mind, two good guidelines are, “Don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person. Don’t reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.”Specific advice for your children might include:Never give out your e-mail password, a photo, or any personal data, such as a physical description, phone number, or address. A bully could use that information to harass you in many ways.Never share too many personal details. For example, if you keep an online diary, someone could use that information to bully or ridicule you.Never share your IM account password with anyone, even your best friend. That friend may share it with other people, or the friendship may end—and your private messages could suddenly become very public. Also, a cyberbully with your password can sign on, pretend to be you, and behave inappropriately with others to embarrass and humiliate you.
  3. Know what your children are doing online.
    Privacy is important, but safety is more important. As a parent, you have a responsibility to know what your children are doing online. Keep your children’s computer in an open spot, such as the family room, where you can supervise Web activity. If your children have an account on a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, for example, know how to access it so you can monitor the communications. If you do discover that your children are subjected to cyberbullying, document it by printing the e-mails or Web pages, saving electronic copies, and contacting your children’s school or the police.

Technology offers your children many advantages and benefits—and, occasionally, some risks. The solution is not to remove their access to technology but rather to manage the risks. You can do that by being aware of your children’s cyber activities, learning about new technologies, and adding “cyber parenting” to your list of talents.

Cyberlife by the numbers — a new world for many parents

Cyberbullying

  • 22% of students know someone who has been bullied online.*
  • 19% of students admit to saying something hurtful to others online.*
  • 12% of students have personally become upset by strangers online.*

* Based on a 2005–06 survey of 13,000 students in grades 5-12.

Kids Online

  • 58% of students admit to using the Internet unsafely, inappropriately, or illegally.
  • 55% of students report having given out personal information (e.g. name, age, gender, home address) to someone they have only met online.***
  • 31% of students have a personal Web page. ***

*** Based on a 2005–06 survey of 12,000 students in grades 5 – 12.

Digital Divide

  • 93% of parents say they have established rules for their child’s Internet activity.*
  • 37% of students report being given no rules from their parents on using the Internet.**
  • 95% of parents say they know “some” or “a lot” about where their children go or what their children do on the Internet.*
  • 41% of students do not share where they go or what they do on the Internet with their parents.**
  • 26% of students believe their parents would be concerned if they knew what they did on the Internet.**

* Based on a 2004–05 pre-assessment survey of 1,350 parents.
** Based on a 2005–06 pre-assessment survey of 12,650 students in grades 5-12.
Statistics from the Internet safety organization i-safe and its sister group, Teenangels. Learn more at www.isafe.org and www.teenangels.org.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources.

 

Help Your Child Recognize the Signs of Bullying

Reprinted with permission from PACER

Children may not always realize that they are being bullied.

They might think it is bullying only if they are being physically hurt; they might believe the other child is joking; or they may not understand the subtle social norms and cues. Children can benefit from a definition of the differences between friendly behavior and bullying behavior. The basic rule: Let children know if the behavior hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, it is bullying.

Parents can prepare themselves to talk with their children by considering how they are going to respond to their child’s questions and emotions. They can also decide what information they would like to give their child about bullying.

Parents should be ready to:

  • Listen. It is the child’s story; let him or her tell it. They may be in emotional pain about the way they are being treated.
  • Believe. The knowledge that a child is being bullied can raise many emotions. To be an effective advocate, parents need to react in a way that encourages the child to trust.
  • Be supportive. Tell the child it is not his fault and that he does not deserve to be bullied. Empower the child by telling her how terrific she is. Avoid judgmental comments about the child or the child who bullies. The child may already be feeling isolated. Hearing negative statements from parents may only further isolate him or her.
  • Be patient. Children may not be ready to open up right away. Talking about the bullying can be difficult because children may fear retaliation from the bully or think that, even if they tell an adult, nothing will change. The child might be feeling insecure, withdrawn, frightened, or ashamed.
  • Provide information. Parents should educate their child about bullying by providing information at a level that the child can understand.
  • Explore options for intervention strategies.Parents can discuss options with their child to deal with bullying behavior.

Questions to Ask Your Child about Bullying

Open-ended questions will help the child talk about his or her situation. Begin with questions that address the child’s environment. For example, “How was your bus ride today?” or “Have you ever seen anyone being mean to someone else on the bus?”

Then move on to questions that directly affect the child such as, “Are you ever scared to get on the bus?” or “Has anyone ever been mean to you on the bus?” If the child is talking about the situation, parents can help their child recognize bullying behavior by asking more questions such as:

  • Did the child hurt you on purpose?
    • Was it done more than once?
    • Did it make you feel bad or angry? How do you feel about the behavior?
    • Did the child know you were being hurt?
    • Is the other child more powerful (i.e. bigger, scarier) than you in some way?

For the child who is reluctant to talk about the situation, questions may include:

  • How was gym class today?
    • Who did you sit by at lunch?
    • You seem to be feeling sick a lot and want to stay home. Please tell me about that.
    • Are kids making fun of you?
    • Are there a lot of cliques at school? What do you think about them?
    • Has anyone ever touched you in a way that did not feel right?

Reactions to Avoid

When children choose to tell their parents about bullying, parents might have one of three responses.

  1. Tell their child to stand up to the bully
    2. Tell their child to ignore and avoid the bully
    3. Take matters into their own hands

While these reactions express genuine caring, concern, and good intentions – and often reflect what parents were told by their own parents or other adults – they are likely to be ineffective. Parents may feel better for having taken action, but these reactions can have harmful consequences. Here’s why these responses will likely be unsuccessful:

  1. Tell your child to stand up to the bully – This can imply that it is your child’s responsibility to handle the situation. While there is a ring of truth to this statement (being assertive is often a good response) sending your child back into the situation without further information will probably cause more harm. A more effective response is to brainstorm options with your child about what you can do as a team to respond to the situation.
  2. Tell your child to ignore the bully – This is easier said than done. Your child has probably tried ignoring the situation, which is a typical response for children. If that method had been effective, however, there wouldn’t be a need for the child to seek your help. It is difficult to ignore someone who is sitting behind you on the bus or next to you in class.
  3. In addition, if the student who is bullying realizes that their target is purposefully “ignoring” them, it can actually ignite further bullying, since that response provides the sense of power and control the student seeks.
  4. Take matters into your own hands – A normal gut response from parents is to try to fix the situation and remove their child from harm. For example, a parent might call the parents of the student who is bullying, or directly confront the bully. Remember, when children tell a parent about bullying, they are looking for the parent to guide them to a solution that makes them feel empowered. Involve them in the process of determining next steps. Typically, calling the other parent or directly confronting the bullying student is ineffective. It is best to work through the school and implement steps to respond.

It is important to Help Your Child Know That They Are Not Alone

  • You are not alone. Many children feel that they are the only ones who are bullied and that no one cares. Let them know that there are people who do care.
  • It is not up to you to stop the bullying. It is never the responsibility of the child to change what is happening to them.
  • Bullying happens to a lot of kids but that NEVER makes it right. Let your child know that bullying happens in small schools, large schools, rural schools, and city schools. It can happen in preschool, high school, and every school in between. It happens in Australia, Argentina, and all around the globe. Certain people will say that some kids deserve to be bullied because of the way the child looks or acts, but this is simply not true.
  • No one deserves to be bullied. Everyone deserves respect. All students have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what.
  • We all need to work together. Everyone is responsible for addressing bullying. The community, schools, parents, and students all play a role.

PACER Resources

Student Action Plan

Are you an educator working with a student being bullied, a parent looking for ways to help your child change their behavior, or a student who wants to take action against bullying but you aren’t sure what to do? As a student, bullying is something that impacts you, your peers, and your school – whether you’re the target of bullying, a witness, or the person who bullies. Bullying can end, but that won’t happen unless students, parents, and educators work together and take action.

The first step is to create a plan that works for you and your situation. This student action plan is an opportunity for you – either on your own or with parents and teachers – to develop a strategy to change what’s happening to you or someone else. It’s your chance to make a difference.

Advice Gone Wrong

An interactive teen perspective (written by teens for adults) on unhelpful advice from parents and educators.

Inside Story

An interactive look, from a teen perspective, at some of the reasons students don’t talk about bullying. Meet Pete. He is a dude with a lot going on inside, and he has zeroed in on some of the reasons that students don’t tell an adult about bullying.

We Need To Talk – Video

Teens have their turn talking about what is helpful and what they want parents to know.

This resource was created by PACER Center’s Bullying Prevention Project, an effort that unites, engages, and educates communities nationwide to prevent bullying through creative, relevant, and interactive resources. Find more resources at www.pacer.org/publications/bullying.asp

Cyber Bullying & Our Children

Cyber Bullying & Our Children

Not a day goes by when we don’t hear something in the news about bullying.  Our schools provide prevention techniques, teachers are more attentive, and parents are on the lookout for the signs. However, just when we thought we were sensitive, trained, and aware of these issues, another formidable opponent has surfaced…the cyber bully.

Children and teens of all abilities can fall prey to this technological torment.  If your children access the internet or social networking sites, it’s important to be aware that bullying can, and does, happen online.  Just like those faced on the school bus or in the lunchroom, cyber bullies look for targets that are vulnerable or may not understand social norms.  Children with disabilities become an easy target for this reason.

I recently was given a brochure, “Cyberbullying and Children with Disabilities, what parents can do to protect their children.”  The information proved very helpful, informative, and full of a variety of tips about how to start the conversation with your kids regarding hurtful things that could happen online.  Parents need to be aware that some kids may fail to report bullying for fear of losing access to devices such as cell phones and iPads.  Due to this fear, parents should set up clear safety rules regarding usage for such devices.  Two examples of these rules are not saying or doing anything online that you wouldn’t say or do in person and not to reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger.  There is an extensive list of great guidelines to help parents deal with bullying.

For more information visit: www.ParentCenterNetwork.org.