Bullying is as old as childhood — bigger kids taking lunch money, weaker kids getting beaten up on the playground or in the bathroom. As many as half of all kids are bullied at some point during their school years, and at least 10 percent are bullied on a regular basis.
Today, bullying has evolved with technology. Cyber bullies use email, instant messaging, weblogs and text messaging to spread rumors, insult and embarrass their victims. They can create bashing websites where kids can vote for the ugliest or fattest kid at school. They can send hundreds of hateful messages to your child’s cell phone. They can post insults and threats on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even steal passwords and take over your child’s social media accounts. Cyber bullies can also use blogs to damage other kids’ reputations. Some blogs skewer classmates by exposing intimate secrets, while others beam humiliating photos to hundreds of people in a single evening.
According to recent surveys, about 20 to 30 percent of young people in grades four through high school have been the target of cyber bullies. Since cyber bullies can mask their identities with screen names and anonymous email addresses, victims often don’t know who the bully is or why they are being targeted. The affects of cyber bullying range from emotional distress to suicide.
To keep your child safe from cyber bullying, experts offer the following strategies:
Sometimes kids are reluctant to tell their parents about cyber bullying because they are afraid or embarrassed. Here is what to look for:
If you discover your child is the victim of a cyber bully, here are some steps you can take to help handle the situation.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: September 2012