Bullying is not a new problem, but thanks to the growth of the Internet, a new form of assault is affecting millions of young people.
According to Cyberbully411.org, between 21 and 30 percent of youth harassed others while online last year. As cyberbullying becomes more common in today’s society, lawmakers have been doing their part to combat it. Parents can help stop the spread of cyberbullying in our youths’ schools by talking about the issue.
The Scoop on Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a form of online harassment, often characterized by a deliberate and hostile intention to cause others harm via web-enabled devices, like computers and smartphones. Cyberbullying takes on many forms, including email or IM messages, rumors posted publicly online, creation of fake profiles, or someone hacking into profiles with the sole purpose of sending or posting offensive material.
Preventing the Unpreventable
Preventing cyberbullying is not always possible, but educating children about the harmful consequences of their actions can help. Nearly 52 percent of teenage victims said they did not tell their parents about their experience, according to lohud.com. Parents have to work even harder to protect their children from cyberbullying. Stopbullying.gov suggests things parents can do to prevent online bullying at home, such as knowing the sites your kids visit and reviewing their online activities. Establish strict rules for appropriate use of computers, cellphones and other technology. According to Cable-TV, you can monitor your child’s media habits by adding parental controls, so your children aren’t exposed to inappropriate material that may encourage bullying. Time spent together, whether watching movies or having a family game night, can help build a trustworthy relationship between you and your children. Encourage your children to tell you if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied.
What Lawmakers are Doing
Lawmakers are cracking down on cyberbullying, partly in thanks to a number of high-profile teen suicides in recent years caused by online bullying. According to USA Today, New York, Delaware, Maine, Kentucky and Indiana are among the states that aim to stiffen the penalties associated with this technological crime. In 2009, North Carolina passed a law that makes cyberbullying a misdemeanor for adolescents. Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Delaware and Arizona limit school jurisdiction over acts committed using school-owned or leased computers for cyberbullying, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Canada has taken aggressive action against cyberbullying. According to CTV News, the Nova Scotia government has introduced a Cyber-Safety Act aimed at cyberbullying.
Recognizing the Signs of Bullying
When parents recognize the various signs of cyberbullying, they can better address the issue at hand. Many children and teens are reluctant to tell an adult about their bullying experiences due to the social stigma associated with “tattling.” Parents can look for these common signs that a child is being cyberbullied:
>> Emotional distress while or after using the Internet or mobile phone
>> Changes in sleep, appetite and behavior
>> May withdraw from activities and friends, avoid group gatherings and become secretive of their digital life
Carolyn Thurman is thrilled she quit her job as a waitress and became a full-time freelance writer. Now she has more time to spend with her husband and kids.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
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