Without question, communication is far simpler in this new digital age than it used to be. Most everyone has a cell phone, computer or some way to social network. Along with all the benefits that come with this new technology there are also many disadvantages.
Many of our teenagers today go online to converse with friends, do their homework or read about their favorite sports star or singer. These simple ways of communication have advanced bullying from the playground to cyberspace.
According to www.bullyingstatistics.org, Cyber bullying can take many forms:
• Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
• Spreading rumors online or through texts
• Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
• Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
• Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
• Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the internet
• Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person
As with a lot of teens most don’t realize the consequences or the seriousness of their actions. Many think they are just being funny. Things posted online may come back to haunt them when they apply to college or apply for a job. Cyber bullies can lose their phones or online accounts as a result of cyber bullying. Cyber bullies along with their parents could be looking at legal charges for cyber bullying and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or included sexting, they may be included in being registered as a sex offender. There are a lot of ways to track someone who is cyber bullying, so don’t think that by giving a false name it will protect you.
According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:
• Over half of adolescents and teens have bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
• Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
Both parents and teens can do some things that help reduce the cyber bullying statistics:
• Talk to teens about cyber bullying, explaining that it is wrong and can have serious consequences.
• Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring.
• Teens should keep cyber bullying messages as proof that the cyber bullying is occurring.
• Try blocking the person sending the messages.
• Teens should never tell their password to anyone except a parent, and should not write it down in a place where it could be found by others.
• Teens should not share anything through text or instant messaging on their cell phone or the internet that they would not want to be made public - remind teens that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are, and that things posted electronically may not be secure.
• Encourage teens never to share personal information online or to meet someone they only know online.
• Keep the computer in a shared space like the family room.
• If your teenager has a cell phone or access to the Internet or both, be sure to sit down with them and review the Rules of Engagement agreement for such use, and have them agree to your rules by signing the agreement.
• Parents may want to wait until high school to allow their teens to have their own email and cell phone accounts, and even then parents should still have access to the accounts.
This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.