You can’t pick up the newspaper (or, if you prefer to read online, peruse the headlines) lately without coming across one story or another where the phenomenon of cyber-bullying isn’t discussed. The effects of this online form of bullying can be severely traumatizing for the victims and can lead to isolation, depression and suicide.
Children have always been bullied, whether in the playground, in school or on the very blocks that they live and play. It remains a disturbing part of growing up; a seemingly random assignment of torment to particular kids, sometimes with provocation and more often, without any. Bullying today has been taken to new heights with the emergence of social networking and the ability of our children to be constantly “plugged in” whether via their computers or cell phones.
What was once limited to the time kids spent in and around the school or playground has now infiltrated our homes on a 24 hour rotation without end. Kids are not only using Facebook, but text messaging, AIM Instant Messaging, YouTube and video chats. The ability to virally reach an infinite audience – even those we don’t know personally, has given new meaning to the word torment. There is, quite literally – NO ESCAPE.
What can we do to stop this? In a word? PARTICIPATION. If that word is not enough, then here’s another. WATCH (closely!). TALK is a good one, too. As parents, we have got to step up and engage with our children. Find out what they are doing online, and just as you would correct their manners at the dinner table, do so with their behavior in this forum.
Don’t even get me started on monitoring your children’s “harmless” photos that they post and tag for all to see. That’s a topic for another post.
For now, I will leave you with this thought. It is much easier to post your feelings, thoughts, etc (both naughty and nice) on a screen of some sort. Let’s try to encourage real, LIVE interaction whenever possible. So much gets lost or misinterpreted via emails, texting and the like. What ever happened to actually picking up the phone?
I will post instructions on how to limit your children’s computer time, which programs they use and for how long in a future post, but for now – dialogue!
I, for one, would hate to think that one of my kids could be participating in cyber-bullying a classmate or friend – or worse – to be on the receiving end of this awful behavior and taunting.
Here are links to just a few of the articles of interest on this subject.
Click here if you’d like to read the official press release announcing Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper’s co-sponsorship of an important bill that will criminalize cyber-bullying against minors.
Some cyber-bullying resources and sites of interest:
- Stop Cyber Bullying Now
- Cyber Bullying Research Center
- Real life Stories
- Alexis Pilkington (Local Long Island Girl posthumous Facebook Page)
- the story of Rachel Neblett (another girl who committed suicide)