Christine Koh

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I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

Cyberbullying 101

text-message.jpgBetween recently watching the PBS Raising Girls program and reading about Phoebe Prince last week, my mind has been on cyberbullying. I’m subsequently grateful to PPLM Parent Education Program Manager Amy Cody, who today shares helpful information, tips, and resources for parents regarding cyberbullying:
From Amy Cody via The PPLM Parent Buzz:

In recent years, technology has given children and youth a new means of bullying each other. Cyberbullying, or online social cruelty or electronic bullying, can happen through use of emails, instant messaging, text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones, web pages, chat rooms, or blogs. Cyberbullying can involve sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages, or posting sensitive, private information about another person. It is a fast and easy way of distributing information and can be done anonymously.

Parents often lament that they can't keep up with the technology their children are using. However, parents are also the number one line of defense against cyberbullying and the number one resource for a child who has been bullied. A strong parent-child relationship is the best way to identify and help a child who has been cyberbullied, or to prevent a child from engaging in cyberbullying behavior.

Changes in your child's behavior are a clue that he or she may be the victim of a cyberbully. Most children are reluctant to tell their parents about cyberbullying. The most frequently given advice is for parents to take note if their child:

  • Spends more time than usual online.
  • Changes his or her group of good friends or stops spending time with them altogether.
  • Seems withdrawn or depressed and uninterested in spending time with family or on hobbies that he or she used to love.

    How Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying

    According to Parry Aftab, Executive Director of WiredSafety.org and an authority on cyberbullying, parents can draw on their "old-fashioned" knowledge of how to deal with the schoolyard bully to help in dealing with a cyberbully. Aftab suggests common sense prevention tips such as:

  • Keep your home computer(s) in easily viewable places, such as a family room or kitchen.

  • Tell your children to keep personal information such as their name, address, telephone number, school, and physical attributes, to themselves.

  • Limit the amount of time your child spends online, and make sure family time takes priority.

  • Talk specifically about cyberbullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyberbullying, or other illegal or troublesome online behavior.

  • Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is aware of others who may be the victims of such behavior.

  • Explain that cyberbullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.

  • Make sure your child practices good cyberbehavior, such as refraining from illegal downloads, or "flaming," that is, sending a provoking message through a chat room or e-mail. If your child has been flamed, tell him to "walk away," that is, exit the cybersite, and tell you or the moderator of the site.

  • After walking away, encourage your child to find ways to help them calm down. This may include doing yoga, or deep-breathing. It may include running, playing catch, or shooting hoops. It may involve taking a bath, hugging a stuffed animal, or talking on the phone with friends.

    As parents, it is important for us to explain to our children that the words they send out via the Internet are never really private again. It can be a challenging concept for many children to understand that their online behavior potentially has as many, if not more, consequences as face to face contact. Kids need to understand that they need to behave as carefully online as they would in every day contact with another person. Before they say something cruel or get angry with someone in an email or on an Internet site, children should think twice before sending those strong words. Once words are on the Internet, they are there forever and others whom they do not want to see those words may end up seeing them.

    The key for kids is knowing enough to stop and tell their parents, and for parents to keep a close eye on their children both online and off.

    Additional Resources on Cyberbullying

  • Stop Cyberbulling
  • Stop Bullying Now!
  • National Crime Prevention Council

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    Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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