FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Unlike bullying that occurs while a child is at school, cyber bullying has no physical boundaries and is capable of reaching children on their electronic devices 24/7. The pervasiveness of technology and with it, cyber bullying, could cause them to feel as if there is no escape and even that their home is no longer a safe haven.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and Jillian Wojcik, assistant professor in the social and behavioral sciences department at Broward College, is offerings tips on what to do if a child becomes a victim of cyber bullying.
“Children who are frequent or long-term victims of cyber bullying can suffer from stress, anxiety and depression, and, in extreme cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts,” said Wojcik. “Some children are afraid to tell their parents or an adult that they are being cyber bullied because they don’t want their computer or electric devices taken away from them. It’s important for parents to comfort their child and help them realize cyber bullying is not their fault.”
To prevent cyber bullying or stop it if it has begun, Wojcik suggests the following:
Establish rules and know what your child is doing online. It is important to set boundaries and limits on a child’s cell phone, computer and other technology, including what sites they can visit and what they are allowed to do online. In addition, closely monitor your child’s online activities, such as what their favorite sites are to visit, and periodically review their online communications, if there is a reason for concern. Follow your child on social media, if possible.
Use privacy settings whenever possible. While discussing how to use the Internet, also ask children to think about the information and photographs they post online, as well as who is able to view them – whether that is friends, friends of friends or complete strangers. People who are not a child’s friend can use information against them, so it is important to use privacy settings whenever possible so only friends can view their information.
Encourage children to report cyber bullying. Parents should remind their children that they should report any cyber bullying they may notice, even if it isn’t happening to them. Make sure they understand that their computer or cell phone will not be taken away. If your child is a victim, block the bully immediately, and utilize the privacy setting on the phone and social media accounts.
Document and keep cyber bullying evidence. Parents should keep threatening messages, pictures and texts, which can be used when the cyber bullying is reported to the bully’s parents, school administration, online service providers, or, possibly, law enforcement.