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.