You probably remember the schoolyard bully -
the kid who teased others, called them names and maybe he even threatened to hurt them. The taunting and tormenting doesn't just happen on the playground these days. In recent years, technology has given an entirely different kind of bully a way to torment.
“Cyberbullying” or electronic bullying is using the internet or other technology to send messages meant to harm or embarrass another person. The digital assault can involve a number of things like sending rude or threatening messages or pictures and posting private or embarrassing information about someone. It can happen through email, instant messaging, text messages, blogs, chat rooms and popular websites like MySpace and Facebook. The anonymity of the internet makes it difficult – sometimes impossible - to know who is responsible.
Learning to deal with cruelty is part of growing up. Very few of us are able to escape childhood without having our feelings hurt at least once along the way, but attacks from cyberbullies can go way beyond what you might consider normal childhood teasing. Research shows more than a third of all elementary and high school students have had someone say something embarrassing or threatening to them through email or text message. Unfortunately, the fear of having the cell phone or computer taken away keeps many of those children from ever telling a parent about the incident.
So what can you do? Keeping your children safe online isn’t about technology; it’s about common sense and communication. Get to know their online friends, just as you do their friends in everyday life. Talk to them about where they go online and who they talk to. Keep the computer in a room where you can monitor it. Remind children that giving out any personal information online is dangerous.
While some may dismiss cyberbullying as child’s play, it can be against the law. Threats, intimidation and sexual exploitation are examples. In Idaho, it against the law to harass a student or cause them fear. If your child is being targeted by a cyberbully, report it to your local law enforcement agency or school resource officer. A victim should not respond to any messages but should save them as evidence of the threat.
Technology is a wonderful thing that can support healthy social activity and allow young people to feel connected to their friends, but we have a responsibility to make sure that connection is a safe one.
Ada County Sheriff