Keep the Social in Networking by Stopping Cyber-bullying

This National Bullying Prevention Month, we want to help parents understand exactly what cyber-bullying is, and what they can do if their child is a victim.

Before you can help your child put an end to the bullying, you have to first know that it’s happening. Children are often silent about being bullied – – out of embarrassment, and fear of more bullying if they speak up. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye out for the signs a child may be having trouble through phone or online communication.

Signs your child may be experiencing cyber-bullies include:

suddenly stops using their phone, computer or other devices
– becomes upset and agitated after being online or receiving a text message
– is secretive or tries to shut down their devices before you can see what they’re doing
– shows signs of lingering depression
– frequently finds reasons to be absent or be sent home from school
– appears to be nervous or uneasy about going online
– avoids discussing their online friends and activities
– has a decline in grades or an increase in disciplinary problems
– begins sleeping or eating too much or too little
– has contacts and friends online you do not know

Learn the language of cyber-bullying:

Trolling & Flaming – sending or posting verbal, emotional and sexually hostile messages that will “inflame” others
Stalking – constantly sending messages that are meant to harass or intimidate, or other unwanted contact
Dissing – sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors
Catfishing – pretending to be someone online in order to gain a person’s trust and personal information
Happy-Slapping – taping verbal harassment and physical violence and posting it online
Photoshopping – using photo and video editing software to doctor and distribute pictures and videos to embarrass or threaten
Posing – stealing passwords and/or assuming someone’s identity online to send or post humiliating information, videos and pictures

Literally every day, there are new websites popping up to grab young people’s attention. It can be hard to keep up, but in order for parents to know what their kids are doing online, they need to be just as social media savvy.

“Common Sense Media” has compiled a list of the most popular websites and apps kids are using, with an explanation of how they are used.

Act quickly to end the cyber-bullying by:

– not responding to or forwarding the bullying messages
immediately blocking everyone participating in the cyber-bullying
keeping evidence of the bullying (screenshots, text messages, emails) to report to websites, cell phone providers and law enforcement
– contacting the school about the cyber-bullying
– reporting to law enforcement bullying that includes threats of harm, sexual abuse, photos or videos in assumed private places (bedrooms, locker rooms) or child pornography/sexting (even among minors)

Two sources highly recommended for cyber-bullying prevention are the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s NetSmartz® Workshop and Facebook’s Bully Prevention Hub.

NetSmartz® lets you choose a variety of safety topics, including cyber-bullying, sexting, cellphone use and others, which you can find detailed information on potential dangers, tip sheets, activities, videos and safety tips.

The Bully Prevention Hub helps teens, parents and educators identify cyber-bullying and find step-by-step instructions on how to end it.

Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!®

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