The Internet has made it possible for children to talk to several friends at one time, work on school projects together and even use it for fun—watching movies, listening to music and playing games. The Internet is the primary mode of communication and entertainment for our youth.
As parents, we are educating ourselves on the communication forums, learning to block spam and stop online predators, but an issue that has not received as much attention is the emotional effects from online bullying.
Cyberbullying is sending or posting harmful text or images using social media, email, blogs, chat rooms, websites and other telecommunication devices. And like schoolyard bullying, cyberbullying is willful and reoccurring threats that can cause emotional and physical distress on the victim.
Examples of cyberbullying:
- Sending cruel or threatening messages
- Spreading rumors
- Creating websites with stories, pictures or jokes that make fun of others
- Breaking into an email account and sending embarrassing material to others
- Engaging someone in IM (instant messaging) and then tricking that person into revealing sensitive personal information, and forwarding that information to others
Cyberbullying can leave permanent emotional scarring. The tools of the Internet make it even easier to spread hate mail, unwanted photographs and threatening messages without face-to-face interaction.
Parents may not be able to completely eliminate cyberbullying all together, but the following computer tips for parents can help decrease the opportunity that your child will come in contact with online predators, bullies and other inappropriate content:
Computer Tips for Parents
- Keep computers in family room/study, not in your child’s bedroom
- Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day
- Check your child’s email or social networking sight frequently (add your own page and be on the their friends list)
- Monitor your child’s chat rooms
- Discuss appropriate Internet sites and what is appropriate information to post, send and receive on the web
Boys Town Pediatrics recommends contacting your child’s physician if you notice a change in your child’s behavior, if your child seems depressed and unmotivated, or if your child doesn’t want to partake in actives he or she once loved.
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