The rise of the cyber-bully

What’s your take on the recent cyber-bullying incidents? There seem to be more and more of them, and I wonder what parents can do to ensure that kids are safe. What do you recommend? Why do people use the Internet to commit such heinous acts?

In the old days, kids were made fun of on the playground, maybe pushed around, and there would be 10-30 kids there to witness it. Cyberspace is the 2010 version of the playground, and it offers potential for great danger since its reach is huge. Its relative anonymity makes it a powerful tool for intimidation and limits the possibility of getting caught. It’s also easier to be mean when there isn’t face-to-face contact. Cyber-bullying can lead to the spread of vicious rumors, lies, threats, harassment, stalking and embarrassment — and it strikes at the heart of what is critically important to most young people: social acceptance. And the toll of deaths by suicide continues to grow alarmingly.

Tips for parents

Here’s what parents can do to safeguard their children:

1
Know the signs of being bullied: feeling upset when online, withdrawal, not wanting to go to school and depression.

2
Educate them on what cyber-bullying is so that they can recognize it. Provide examples of what is acceptable online behavior and what is not. 

3
Encourage kids to come to you if they feel they’re being bullied. 

4
Keep the computer in a central location.

5
Encourage kids to make friends offline, as bullies usually target those they see as isolated and leave kids alone who have a strong group of friends.

–Jonathan Alpert is a licensed psychotherapist. E-mail him your questions at jonathan@jonathanalpert.com


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