It is when a bully uses emails, chat rooms, texting, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace or other social networks to denigrate or cause fear in others. It is now the most common and insidious form of bullying and is usually anonymous. It is also a crime.
Both boys and girls of primary school age now receive messages to the effect that if they don’t provide oral sex the next day they will be bashed.
Derogatory messages and images (doctored or otherwise) may be placed on social network sites. For example, victims’ photos can be superimposed on pornographic images. Girls have sent photos of their genitals to boyfriends who, for peer-group kudos, placed them on the internet causing massive embarrassment and even suicide. Some photographed others in toilets without their consent.
Although cyber bullies have similar motives to their traditional counterparts, they have a much greater impact on victims. Studies show that children do not tell parents because of the fear that their technology will be confiscated and they regard it as essential to their social lives.
You can help to prevent this by discussing the size and nature of the problem. Ensure that children do not take mobile phones to bed. When cyber bullying occurs, save the message and tell your child not to reply; replies make bullies feel important. Next, contact the service provider to have messages traced and stopped. If not possible, open a new email account for use with close friends. Keep a printout of worrying messages. Talk to children about the need to report cyber bullying.
Use programs to restrict children accessing sexual and dangerous websites. Keep computers in the family room where you can monitor usage.
Further information can be obtained from Australia’s Cybersafety website. These are government sponsored free websites specifically to help parents to protect children when using the internet.
Emeritus Professor in Child Development
Dr Freda Briggs AO is Emeritus Professor in Child Development at the University of South Australia and author of "Smart Parenting for Safer Kids". "Smart Parenting for Safer Kids", reviewed by SingleMum.com.au here, gives tips on keeping children safe in a wide range of situations from cyber space and sexual abuse to bullying. The book is available in all good bookstores and can be ordered by phone on 03 9681 7275 or online at JoJo Publishing
You can read more of Freda Briggs's Profile here.
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