The cell phone and Internet have added to the concerns of parents about the physical and emotional safety of children. We have all faced bullying sometime in our life and want to protect our kids from it. The responsibility has now increases and become more difficult with the popularity of social networking sites like Face book, twitter etc. ‘Cyber bullying’ is the new form of bullying which may go unnoticed from the parents, till it reaches a dangerous point.
Cyber bullying is the use of the Internet and other related technology to harm other people in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner. (Wikipedia)
The aim of bullying remains the same- to take revenge or/and to defame someone the bully does not like or wants to prove his superiority over. The ways of bullying also are the same- making fun of the target and spreading mean rumors, blackmailing and threatening. The thing that has changed is that the bully can be anonymous! Usually friends, teachers, parents know who all can be bullying the child among the known circle. But in the cyberspace anyone can bully with a fake name.
How are children cyber bullied
Social networking sites are the most widely used sites for bullying. Here even the timid type of children, who may not have the courage to bully someone directly, can form groups and target someone. Children form hate groups where they invite other children to vote for someone as the ugliest, weird, fat, clumsy etc. They tag a child and then seek vote. This is done in site where the bully knows that the victim has account or access. Not just the target but his/her friends and acquaintances too for maximum damage. Social networking sites are used to spread provocative, false and mean information about the target to defame them. Hate messages are circulated and shared. When the child’s friends and acquaintances read about these many get influenced and behave differently with the child. The tag itself is quite painful for children, who may often try to cope with it all alone, not wanting to tell anything to parents. Even death threats are sent on the net to actually kill or blackmail the target.
The child’s password can be stolen or guessed or the bully can hack your computer and steal vital personal information. The bully may even pose as someone known to the child or his/her parents to extract secrets or personal information, which he intends to use against the target. Pictures can be easily morphed into objectionable ones and circulated with the profile and phone number of a target.
Interactive games too are a means of tormenting a target. Constant hurtful, threatening messages on the cellphone from anonymous or known senders may also torment children.
- Read and be aware of the ways children can be bullied on the net.
- Learn to use the net. This will make you more aware and better prepared to alert your child of the risks involved.
- Just like drugs, alcohol and bad company, children have to be made aware of cyber bullies too. Talk to them about the ways of bullying on the net.
- Just as we tell them about how to choose friends in real life, they have to be educated about selecting friends on the cyberspace too. Not everyone is to be accepted as friends and acquaintances.
- While emphasizing on the dangers of the net, explain to the child why it is better to have only a few friends on the net. If the child has a limited circle and that too only of the trusted friends, the chances of being bullied are cut off. There is no fun in bullying if the bully knows that you will not get the message directly. T
- The child should be cautious and think many times before clicking on anything. Encourage the child to have real friends and a constructive social life rather than virtual networking.
- Teach the child to respect others in the real world and also on the net. He/she should be able to restrain from voting or spreading malicious things about someone. The children should know how to use the net for good purposes only like education or catching up with friends living far away.
- Wasting away time on chatting and social networking sites should be discouraged.
- Be friendly with your child, listen to him/her and let them feel free to discuss their problems. Tell them clearly that such things happen and they should report to you about any bullying.
- Open and free communication is important because you may not have access to all of your child’s account. The child should know when to stop and block a person or account and not just go on reading the malicious contents at his own peril. If the threat seems serious, it should not be deleted, but reported to the cyber crime police, who can trace down the culprit.
- The child may not always report to you about bullying. Therefore parents have to watch out for distress symptoms like change in behavior; avoiding friends, eating less or more than normal, lack of concentration, insomnia and other signs of depression.