By: Diane Flanagan.
In late April of 2013, a bill seeking to prohibit cyberbullying won unanimous support in the Senate. It had been passed by a unanimous vote in the House earlier in the month. The bill gives school administrators more authority to police and address any school bullying taking place online and electronically via texting.
The unanimous votes in both the House and Senate spoke volumes. Both educators and legislators expressed their relief and gratitude about the passing of this bill, which gives administrators the ability to offer students more protection against unwanted attacks online.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect Children?
Cyberbullying has many of the same psychological effects as other types of bullying and menacing behaviors. The traumatic effects are no less impactful, and can perhaps have an even more insidious effect online. The public nature of the humiliation inflicted by online bullies compounds the traumatic effect for many victims. Instead of just the kids in class knowing about it, the whole school is potentially aware of it as well as the online community. Cyberbullying can cause the same PTSD effects as offline bullying as well as anxiety disorders, flashbacks, low self-esteem, depression and, in the worst cases, suicide.
Handling Cyberbullying Legally
This recent bill marks a major turning point for this issue. Before the bill, administrators were helpless to do much about these issues, which fell into a gray area between the students’ school life and private life. Now, they are able to take action when online harassment is detected. This will diffuse abusive situations for victims of cyberbullying and potentially save lives.
How Can Parents Help?
Children have more exposure and access to TV and the Internet than ever before. Satellite TV services such as DirecTV packages come with an astonishing 285 channels, making it difficult to control what content kids are exposed to. Just about every kid has a Facebook page nowadays. While for the most part it is a fun way for them to stay in touch with friends, it also opens them up for a cyberbullying attack should the occasion arise. Over 88 percent of kids have reported being the recipient of at least one instance of online cruelty or “mean” remarks at some point.
What can parents do to help prevent cyberbullying?
• Start by talking to your child. Warn them about the hazards of online use. Make it clear that you have an open-door policy, that you are ready and willing to talk about any issue they’d like to discuss.
• Watch for behavior changes. The way they speak, body language, changes in sleep or eating habits or a drastic drop in grades can all be indicators that something is wrong. Your child could be facing bullying, and these are signs you should investigate further.
• If your child won’t talk openly about it, get the user ids and passwords for their social media and e-mail accounts and see what’s really going on. Check the texting history on their cell phone.
• Block any users you determine to be harassing your child. If the threats persist, make copies and screenshots of the abusive posts and contact parents, schools, and/or law enforcement officials as appropriate.
• Above all, support and love your child through it. Validate their feelings with respect to their struggles, no matter how trivial they may seem to you.
As amazing as technology can be, it has made it far more difficult and complex to be a kid. Remember how hard it was when you were growing up? Well, multiply that tenfold. Today’s parents can never fully know what it’s like to grow up in this technology-saturated culture. We can only be there to support and love them as they navigate its pitfalls.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Diane is a single mom and freelance writer who lives in North Carolina.
- Are Your Daughters Being Cyberbullied?
- Be the Anti-Bully: There’s No Such Thing as an Innocent Bystander
- Is Your Daughter Getting Bullied in Her Own Home?
- Bullying More Likely to Have a Lasting Impact on Girls.
- Decoding Your Daughter’s Text Speak May Save Her Life