Sacramento Martial Arts and Karate
By Lori Getz
"Cyberbullying" is the act of bullying online. The actual behavior isn't much different from traditional schoolyard bullying, but the different medium makes the consequences far more severe.
Cyberbullying consists of:
Talk to your children about what it means to be a bully. There are different types of bullies:
We must make sure that we explain this to our children, so we can give them the appropriate advice when dealing with a bully. If we teach our children to think they can fix the bully, we put them in situations where they will not win! You can't stop a bully from controlling others. You can't make a bully like his/her victim. Retaliating in kind won't work, either, because the victim will never be meaner than the bully. You can't even ignore a bully. None of this works. The only way to empower victims is to tell them the truth about why they're being bullied, and then help them take back control by rebuilding their own self-esteem, finding a safe group of friends and reporting the bullying to the appropriate agency (a parent, school, social-networking site or even law enforcement) to deal with.
Teach victims to "Stop, Block and Report":
"Stop": Tell your child, "Do not respond to cyberbullying." You don't want your child to inadvertently become a bully because they lash out in defense. Although bullies deserve to be dealt with (and as a former victim, I would like to see them all get their fair comeuppances), that task should not fall to the victim. It's also tempting as a parent to expend time and effort trying to "get the bully that hurt your child" -- especially when the cyberbullying happens anonymously. But how will exposing the culprit help your child? Now they'll just know who it is that hates them so much.
Although you may choose to handle the situation as you see fit behind-the-scenes, make sure you're also focusing on what will help your children rebuild their self-esteem and get past the situation.
"Block": Teach your children how to stop the cyberbully from sending any more messages. If the bullying is happening anonymously, then your child should shut down the application being used to transmit the messages. They may even want to shut down their e-mail, IM or social-networking accounts and start over again with a smaller group of friends they know they can trust.
"Report": Encourage your child to print out the entire conversation and tell someone! Hopefully, they'll tell you didn't tell their parents about cyberbullying because they were afraid they'd take away the technology. Parents, please remember that cyberbullying is a behavior! Let's treat the behavior -- not the technology! first -- although a 2008 study found that many teens didn't tell their parents about cyberbullying because they were
afraid they'd take away the technology. Parents, please remember that
cyberbullying is a behavior! Let's treat the behavior -- not the technology!
Most websites (including gaming and social-networking sites) have a way to report abuse. That should be the first reporting you and your child do together. Depending on the site and the degree of bullying, they may do everything from warning the culprit to shutting down an account to contacting law enforcement. Different states have different laws about cyberbullying. However, if your child is being harassed or threatened online, contact local law enforcement immediately!
Talk to your children about their role in a cyberbullying situation. There are typically one of four roles being played:
1) The Bully: The person directly involved in the malicious act (as described above).
2) The Victim: The person directly affected by the bullying.
3) The Bystander: The person who, while not directly involved, is aware of the situation and does nothing to stop it.
4) The Advocate: The person who, while not directly involved, chooses to stand up to the bully and attempt to stop the taunting, teasing or harassment.
Take time to role-play, allowing your children to experience all four roles so they can decide the best course of action when it comes to cyberbullying. Talk to them about what it means to be respectful -- both in the physical realm and online. Also, it's important that you model positive, respectful behavior in the home. (Bullies often learn aggressive behavior in the home, whether from a parent or a sibling.)