How to Stop Cyberbullying

At first glance, the term “cyberbullying” might look like something out of a cheesy black and white film about some scientific future with unfriendly robots. But after a closer look, it is easy to see that cyberbullying is extremely cruel and can be difficult to handle, even for adults. As a kid, bullies are usually the largest kids and their reach is fairly local. Simply keeping close company with good people is usually a good way to keep the bullies away, and a schoolyard bully is not likely to taunt or harass people in front of their parents or school administrators.

Enter the information age. Wireless Internet and portable touch screen computers make virtually everything accessible to anyone from anywhere. While it is much easier now to check your bank account, keep in touch with long distant relatives or order a pizza thanks to the Internet, it is also much easier for the wrong people to spread the wrong kinds of information about us without the need to look at us in real life. Cyberbullying becomes a real nightmare when the device that we keep closest to us throughout the day is constantly relaying insults and shame from sources that know no bounds.

So what exactly is cyberbullying?

Cyber bullying is somewhat similar to kids who bully in the playground, except cyberbullies sit behind a keyboard and use various social media outlets in order to humiliate others. Kids have become fairly attached to their smartphones, online games and social media pages, so abusive messages and posts intended to ridicule them that are displayed in these forums can be a serious problem. Quite often these posts will snowball and others will get in on the gag, compounding the shame to the point that the victim is overwhelmed and does not want to participate in social interaction anymore..

Cyber bullying is becoming increasingly common and as many as 1 in 3 kids in the US admit to having been bullied online. The good news is that schools are beginning to take steps in putting a stop to cyberbullying through education and awareness. Administrators and educators are learning to be aware of what cyberbullying looks like on face value and then talking with parents about any concerns they might have about a student’s grades or behavior that might be out of the ordinary.

How can we stop cyberbullying?

Education is the first step in finding ways to curb the effects that cyberbullying has in the classroom and into our personal lives. First we need to help our children understand that picking on others is not acceptable behavior. Secondly, we should take note of the applications that our children are using online and get involved in understanding what kinds of information our children are accessing, sharing and with whom they are communicating. Inappropriate behavior should be pointed out and there should be an understanding based on respect that will resolve situations in mature and responsible ways.

Talking with our children about what to expect before providing them with their own smartphone or tablet can be a strong preventative measure to bad behavior. Children who understand that a smartphone and Internet usage is a privilege and a responsibility that can be taken away are more likely to behave well, knowing that their parents will follow up with how they are using the Internet. Many parents have used the opportunity to teach their children about contracts and written agreements by setting out a written list of rules and their children’s acknowledgment of understanding the terms and conditions of using their smartphone or tablet. Parents must also be responsible in learning how their children are using smartphones and tablets, as well as any Internet connected device that they have access to. Knowing where your children are and what information they are sharing with outsiders is the first step to making sure that cyberbullying does not become a major issue.

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