Fighting cyberbullying over school and home networks
We’ve all heard the old proverb for dealing with school bullying, about sticks and stones. Not really that effective, back then. Less so, today. The image of the school bully beating up kids for their lunch money has been replaced by a more sinister digital monster. Children can now spread rumors and lies about other children through the powerful anonymity of the Internet, facilitated by the rise in young people owning cell phones.
According to the National Education Association in the U.S., an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day due to concerns over bullying. And given that most children are socialized by their peers not to “tattletale”, sometimes the hardest part is telling adults there’s a problem at all. Until it’s too late, that is.
Canada has one of the most infamous examples of cyber bullying. In 2012, Port Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd committed suicide due to constant harassment and even blackmail.
More recently, a girl in Auckland, NZ, recently tried to harm herself in what family members say was a reaction to her being bullied over the Internet.
One of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying is to be proactive as a parent. Monitoring the Internet is an ideal way to catch problems before they become severe.
Watch out for signs that a child is being bullied online such as a reluctance to use the computer or go to school.
What to do after you’ve noticed bullying through computer monitoring
Report online bullying to your internet or cell phone service provider. Most companies have Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) that clearly define privileges and guidelines for those using their services, and the actions that can be taken if those guidelines are violated. They should be able to respond to reports of cyberbullying over their networks or help you track down the appropriate service provider to respond to. Also, report incidents of online harassment and physical threats to your local police. Some forms of online bullying are considered criminal acts.
How do you keep your child from becoming bullied? Some tips we’ve seen used by our clients who are using SoftActivity to protect their kids:
- Leaving the area of harassment online (chat room, video game, instant messenger, social media site).
- Block the sender. This is possible on any device or through social media. Never reply to threatening messages.
- Encourage them to report incidents to an adult. They will decide if action from the police is warranted.
- Save messages as evidence for police and forward them to your Internet Service Provider to take action.