October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a month in which schools and organizations across the United States work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying. This year, with many local schools closed and virtual school (and virtual activities) a reality for many young kids and teenagers, it’s more important than ever for support efforts against cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying? According to Pacer.Org, cyberbullying is the use of technology to intentionally and repeatedly harass, embarrass or intimidate another person. Here are some examples of cyberbullying from Pacer.Org:
- Posting comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing.
- Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves.
- Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video.
- Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else.
- Posting mean or hateful names, comments, or content about any race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics online.
- Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone.
- Doxing, an abbreviated form of the word documents, is a form of online harassment used to exact revenge and to threaten and destroy the privacy of individuals by making their personal information public, including addresses, social security, credit card and phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other private data.
This bullying can happen anywhere kids interact online, from chat rooms, Zoom small groups, text messages, social media sites (such as SnapChat or Instagram), video games and other interactive sites. Much of the communication that used to happen in person is now happening virtually – and more than ever in 2020 due to Covid 19. Many times kids communicate outside the supervision of adults, which makes it much more difficult to identify the behavior and put an end to anything negative.
What does it mean to “Stomp Out Bullying” in a virtual World? How can we work together to end cyberbullying and teach our kids to be leaders against hatred, racism and intolerance?
Here are some suggestions and tips from Pacer.Org on how parents can get involved and prevent bullying:
- Open the Conversation. Start early and often and let your child know WHAT cyberbullying is, HOW they can identify and prevent it, and WHY it’s important to talk with you as soon as possible if they see something online that is hurtful or inappropriate.
- Create Rules and Guidelines for Online Behavior. Just as you teach your children expectations for their behavior at home or in public, teach them your expectations for their behavior VIRTUALLY. Work with your child (particularly older children) to create boundaries and teach them the WHY behind your rules: what can happen if they share their private information online, or share passwords with friends.
- Stay Involved. As a parent you have a responsibility to make sure your child is safe online and to stay informed on what they are doing online. Remember the guidelines you have set, and remind your child of your expectations. Maybe you keep track of your child’s passwords, check their text messages or double check their social media presence.
Cyberbullying can be an incredibly traumatic and isolating experience for children. If your child is experiencing bullying, let them know you support them and they are not facing the problem alone. Work with teachers if the behavior is happening at school, or keep detailed records of the behavior.
For more information, these sites have excellent information on bullying prevention: