Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cyberbullying- Same Old Problem, Magnified Beyond the Schoolyard

What is "cyberbullying"? It's pretty much what it sounds like: bullying via use of technology, whether that is over a cell phone through texting, or emails or facebook or any other form of social media. The scary parts to me are that (A) the bully can feel or actually be anonymous, which promotes more vicious attacks and (B) the potential audience is unlimited.

We need to remember that true bullying exists when there is INTENT to cause harm or pain to the recipient. Unfortunately, there are many opportunities these days for kids (and adults) to unintentionally cause pain via the internet. With facebook or gmail alone, kids post their "status" as attending this or that party, or making an amazing grade, or simply noting an immediate change in relationship status. These comments are floating out in cyberspace and causing plenty of tears on their own, though they lack the malicious intent of true bullying.

What can parents do about cyberbullying? Most importantly, we need to be aware of what our kids are receiving AND sending- remember, your kid might be the bully or the victim. Let's teach them more "digital citizenship" so they really understand what is appropriate online etiquette.

Dr. Gwen O'Keeffe's new book, Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Digital Kids in the World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media, is a great place to start- read it now.

BOTTOM LINE: Let's teach our kids better online "digital citizenship" and make sure they can protect themselves from cyberbullies.

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