Southern Hilltowns Domestic Violence Task Force Letter on Cyberbullying
Southern Hilltown Domestic Violence Task Force writes:
Bullying is different than it used to be. It still happens between classmates and within dating relationships like it always has. But cell phones and the internet have changed the landscape. Twenty years ago if you were bullied you knew who was bullying you and could usually get away from the bullying after school. Today, cyberbullying (bullying through the use of technology) can happen 24/7. It can happen anonymously through unidentifiable email addresses or pseudonymous screen names on social networking sites. Further, the bullying can be shared with a large number of people with a simple click of the mouse. Basically, bullies have more sophisticated tools than they used to have. With new technology they can reach further and can inflict greater harm.
What does this mean for parents? Unfortunately, it means we can’t ignore cyberspace. Bullying expert Dr. Sameer Hinduja recently gave a talk for parents at Westfield State University, and made the following recommendations. First, talk to your child about their cyberlife, and remind them that the rules you have for interacting with people in real life also apply for interacting online or through cell phones. Second, explain to them that what goes on-line may well stay on-line forever. They can easily damage their reputation with the wrong comment, posting or photo. Third, monitor your child’s online activities and find filtering or blocking software that you are comfortable with. The website www.cyberbullying.us has more information on how to do this, and also has a sample “internet use contract” and “cell phone use contract” to help parents and children be crystal clear about rules for the use of technology.
Dr. Hinduja also suggests being alert to the signs of cyberbullying. If your child unexpectedly stops using their computer or cell phone, appears nervous when an instant message or text appears, or seems uneasy about going to school or going out in general, talk to them about what is going on. And, make sure your child is not cyberbullying someone else. If your child quickly switches screens or closes programs when you walk by, gets unusually upset if computer or cell phone privileges are restricted, or avoids discussions about what they are doing on the cell phone or computer, you should be concerned.
In general, if a youth acts in ways that are inconsistent with their usual behavior when using these communications devices, it’s time to find out why. Talk to your child. If you find that they are being bullied – and remember they can be bullied by classmates, friends or boy/girlfriends – don’t panic. Work with them to decide how to handle it. Guidance on how to do this can be found on www.cyberbullying.us. If the bullying is within a dating relationship you can contact Everywoman Center in Amherst at 800-337-0800 for advice.
In our on-going effort to end bullying, including bullying in dating relationships, we can’t ignore the new landscape.
Diane Meehan, Lindsey Maxwell, Sarah Beard, Joyce Hanousek, Nancy Webb, Dale Lapointe, Wendy Long, Gail Bobin, and Lieutenant David Buell
Photo credit: (ccl) Peter Dedina