In addition to Child Identification, we here at Ident-A-Kid are also concerned with your child’s physical and mental safety. Not only does Cyberbullying have potentially dangerous psychological implications for your child, but your child’s physical safety may become an issue as well. Bullies are notorious for tormenting their victims face to face—at school, on the playground, in sports. But now, cyberbullying (or online bullying) opens the door to 24-hour harassment through computers, cell phones, gaming consoles, or other Internet-enabled means. Below is some information from Microsoft.com and Symantec.com about Cyberbullying and how to stop it.
Talk with your kids about cyberbullying.
Ask your kids what they're doing online and encourage them to report bullying to you. Promise that you will take action on their behalf and explain what you will do. Reassure them that you won't curtail their phone or computer privileges.
Keep the family computer in a central location.
If your kids play video games, keep Internet-connected game consoles in a central location also. Teenagers have so many ways to access the Internet that putting the computer in a central spot isn't always effective. With older kids, it's especially important to have frank discussions.
Look for signs of online bullying.
For example, getting upset when online or a reluctance to go to school.
Don't tolerate cyberbullying at home.
Let your children know they should never, under any circumstances, bully someone. Make the consequences clear.
Keep passwords secret.
Urge your kids not to share passwords or other information that could be used to bully them, or to loan their cell phones or laptops.
Encourage your children to make friends
and to help friends look out for each other. Cyberbullies are less likely to target those whom they perceive have strong friendships. If a victim has friends who rally around him or her, the bullying usually stops.
Get help from technology.
Turn on the safety features available in most programs and services.
If your child is a victim of online bullying, there are a number of escalating steps you can take, says Nancy E. Willard, author of the book Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the challenge of online social cruelty, threats, and distress.
Identify and block.
First, ask your child not to respond or retaliate, no matter how tempting it may be to "fight back." If you can identify who's cyberbullying your child, block any further communications. In your instant message program go to People or Friends in the main menu and choose Block User or Remove Friend, for instance. In your email program, add the offending email address to your blacklist. For assistance in online sleuthing, contact WiredSafety.org, whose trained volunteers can also help you try to track down who's behind the online harassment.
You, not your kids, should also contact the bully (or bullies) and demand the offending behavior stop. If you don't know their real identity, send an email or IM. Warn them that you will contact their parents or school, too, if the behavior continues.
File a complaint.
Most cyberbullying behavior-harassment, threats, invasion of privacy, stalking-are violations of a web site or Internet service provider's "terms of service." You can file a complaint with the service and that could lead to the suspension or termination of the cyberbully's (or his or her parents') Internet access.
Contact the school.
If you know the bully attends the same school as your child, teachers and administrators might be able to help. Keep in mind, however, that due to free speech rights, schools often have little leverage over what goes on outside the classroom. Some schools are incorporating anti-cyberbullying terms into students' online access agreements, so if the bully contacted your child from a school computer, he or she could be in big trouble. Make sure to report the incident either way.
Send a certified letter.
If you've done all you can and the bullying hasn't stopped, send the child's parents a certified "cease and desist" letter. Along with the letter, include computer print-outs of the bullying behavior, such as emails or IM transcripts. Ask the parents to step in and put a stop to the cyberbullying. Willard, who is also a lawyer and director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says certifying the letter proves the parents are aware of their child's behavior and can be held responsible if it still doesn't stop.
Call an Attorney.
In the worst case scenario, a lawyer can help you consider filing a civil suit against bullies and/or their parents for defamation, harassment or other causes. Sometimes the threat of a suit is enough to dissuade cyberbullies.
Contact the local police.
If there's any evidence that the cyberbully's tactics include criminal actions, such as hate crimes, physical threats or talk of brandishing weapons at school, contact your local police immediately. Cyberbullies who post surreptitious locker-room photos of their victims online can also be brought up on charges of child pornography. Make sure to print examples of the offending behavior and pass it on to the police. The police can use your complaint to gather any other admissible evidence from your child's computer, if need be.
Talk with your kids about what's acceptable.
Anne Collier, editor of NetFamilyNews.org, an email newsletter about online safety for kids, says to truly stop cyberbullying, however, you have to first know what's happening when your kids are online. Kids are often reluctant to tell parents about cyberbullying or anything else that goes on online for fear parents will only make things worse. Others feel that what they do on the Internet is "private." Williard says that nothing could be further from the truth: "Kids need to know that the Internet is a public space and need to treat it as such."
Willard suggests that you get to know your child's screen names and email addresses and don't hesitate to "Google" (or search) for your kid's online identities. She also says parents should be up front-so tell your kids you'll be checking up on them periodically. And communicate with your kid's friends' parents, she says. Setting expectations not just for your child but everyone else can avoid future problems.
"It takes a digital village to raise a child, these days," she says.
Collier adds that you can draft an "acceptable use policy" or contract for the home computer or other text-messaging devices as well. The policy should address every aspect of venturing into cyberspace, including how long your children will stay online each day. Or what web sites, messaging services and chat rooms are acceptable destinations. Also discuss what personal information they can share online, including photos. "Ask your child, 'What will you do if…?' and then write mutually acceptable answers into the contract," Collier advises. A signed promise to be kind to others online and to report cyberbullying (of themselves or others) could go a long way towards preventing problems before they start.
For more information about Cyberbullying and what to do, visit: