Internet technology is widely used today, particularly by children and teens. eMail, instant messaging, social media and cell phone text messaging are valuable tools, but problems can arise when this technology is used improperly, particularly when it comes to the safety of our children. Among school-age youth, electronic messaging is being used to threaten and harass others. It allows instant communication but it encourages communication without deliberation. Because messages are not spoken face-to-face, it can promote bravery and create a feeling of anonymity. Often the impact of cyberbullying, compared to the spoken word, can be more hurtful because of the feeling of permanency.
There are warning signs that may surface in children who are victims of cyberbullying:
- Change in personality
- Change in or loss of friends
- Drop in grades
- Becoming more secretive
- Increased isolation
If you are aware that a child is being victimized online, consider giving the following advice:
- DO NOT RESPOND TO THE MESSAGE. A response will only escalate the situation. If you do not respond the sender will not know the message was received.
- Do not forward the message.
- Do not encourage others to be cyberbullies.
- Stand united against cyberbullying.
- Report the message to your school or law enforcement based upon the intent and content of the message. This includes harassing, derogatory or embarrassing statements, serious threats and/or repeated threats.
- Save the evidence.
- Report cyberbullying online at www.abuse@(service provider).com or www.cybertipline.com.
Everyone should remember to protect their name, identity and reputation. What is posted online, including photos or other images, can impact your future. This information can easily be copied or altered, and once information is on the Internet it is no longer private.
In this day and age, computers give predators easy access to our homes. They can threaten our children’s safety by exposing them to material that promotes violence, drug use and pornography.
To help parents who need assistance ensuring their child does not become a victim of an online predator, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is offering ComputerCOP Parental Monitoring Software free of charge to citizens. ComputerCOP searches for and displays images and text for parents or guardians to review and includes a keystroke monitoring function that enables a parent or guardian to see if their children are giving out personal information online.
This feature will scan all chat and eMail messages typed on the computer allowing the ComputerCOP Deluxe user, at a later date, to review messages that contain what may be considered objectionable words or phrases as well as personal information.
To request a copy of ComputerCOP email your name and address to SRQsher@scgov.net or call the Community Affairs Office at 941.861.4005.