Thursday, 05 April 2012 09:33
By Tracy Winslow
Although bullying is nothing new to tweens and teens, cyberbullying can easily go to a devastating level in a matter of minutes.
It is just what it sounds like, bullying via social media. It can easily start with a lie, a rumor, a picture, or a forwarded seemingly private text message or email and just as easily spiral out of control. The cruelty of cyberbullying has become a destructive reality to so many children because it involves more than just the bully and the victim.
What are the different types?
• Flaming and Trolling – sending or posting hostile messages intended to “inflame” the emotions of others
• Happy-Slapping – recording someone being harassed or bullied in a way that usually involves physical abuse, then posting the video online for public viewing
• Identity Theft/Impersonation – stealing someone’s password and/or hijacking their online accounts to send or post incriminating or humiliating pictures, videos, or information
• Photoshopping – doctoring digital images so that the main subject is placed in a compromising or embarrassing situation
• Physical Threats – sending messages that involve threats to a person’s physical safety
• Rumor Spreading – spreading gossip through e-mail, text messaging, or social networking sites
Signs your child may be a victim of cyberbullying
• Avoids the computer, cell phone, and other technological devices or appears stressed when receiving an e-mail, instant message, or text
• Withdraws from family and friends or acts reluctant to attend school and social events
• Avoids conversations about computer use
• Exhibits signs of low self-esteem including depression and/or fear
• Has declining grades
• Has poor eating or sleeping habits
How can you help your child?
• Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone -- or passively witness others being bullied.
• Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel – both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.
• Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in -- their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend. Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.
• Help your kid be an upstander – not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.
• Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And – if anything does happen – save the evidence.
• Make use of the “block” or “ban” feature to block the cyberbully’s screen name or email address so that messages cannot reach your child. If your child continues to receive harassing emails, have them delete their current accounts and help them open a new one.
• If a cyberbully has posted embarrassing photos or personal information about your child on a Web site, contact your Internet Service Provider for assistance, the Web site hosting the page, and if necessary, also inform local law enforcement to try to get the Web site removed.
• If the cyberbully is someone your child knows from school, seek the assistance of school officials to stop the harassment. Find out if your child’s school has a policy on bullying that includes cyberbullying and urge administrators to implement training and education programs to discourage bullying.
Just as you would protect your child from someone trying to physically harm them, you must also protect them from psychological and spiritual harm. We as parents are responsible before God to protect and care for our children. Because bullying is about power over another, then consider teaching your child to counterbalance the power of virtues over sin… humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, charity against greed, and diligence against sloth. If a child can master the virtues, the sin has no power.
Catholic parenting during our times is very difficult because we are assaulted everyday from the outside influences of the secular world. God has given us everything we need to succeed! It can be done properly and successfully with the help of prayer, the Holy Spirit, trust in God, the Holy Family and of course the support of one another.
More resources for parents
These websites are a great resource for parents: