Some of you may remember the launch of CyberIQ, an event for middle school girls and their parents devoted to cyber safety and awareness. Over the past few years, cyber safety has become a huge issue among children and teenagers. With the introduction of new forms of social communication, including Facebook and Twitter, and new ways to share information, children and teens are running into new dangers. From sexting to cyber bullying, the online world can be a scary place – unless children are given the power to be responsible.
Diedre Murphy, Venue Manager, and I had the unique opportunity to take CyberIQ on the road recently. Last month, we talked with 22 middle school girls from the STEM Girls Club at Chapin Middle. We covered everything from cyber bullying to texting to social netiquette. After that afternoon, we decided more students needed to know how to be in control online. Hence, the CyberIQ Road Show!
This morning, Diedre and I talked to the 5th graders at Satchel Ford Elementary. First, can I say what a COOL school Satchel Ford is?!? The vibe around the school is one of happy children who are excited and eager to learn. We walked in and were greeted by the 1st graders parading through the hall in their holiday-themed pajamas singing “Jingle Bells” on their way to their Polar Express Pajama Party. How much fun! (And I am still waiting for my invitation!) Diedre was thrilled to be back at Satchel Ford – for the first time in a number of years (my lips are sealed). Diedre informed the children there that Satchel Ford is her alma mater, but that she was “old as dirt” and that was forever and a day ago (again, her words, not mine).
We were taken to the library, which is filled with bright colors and sea creatures. There, we met over 100 bright and eager 5th graders. Cyber bullying is an issue that begins at an age that gets younger and younger, and does not stop, no matter how old you get. Cyber bullying is a real issue that affects not only the child being bullied, but can have an impact on his/her family, friends, school life and more. We were there to educate these young children on cyber bullying and give them the power to stop it. We spent an hour talking openly as a group about examples of cyber bullying, how to handle a cyber bully, what to do if you see someone else being cyber bullied and other topics related to social networking.
One video we watched (produced by Wired Safety – see link below) gave a very startling fact: 90% of the middle school students they polled say they have had their feelings hurt online, and only 15% of their parents knew about cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is a real issue today. It’s not in a school in a different town or a different state. It happens here – in your hometown, in your child’s school. How do we stop it? We need to give children the power to stop it – and that power is knowledge. Parents and children need to know about cyber bullying, its dangers and how to stop it. Here’s a brief look at cyber bullying, and how you can learn more.
So, what is cyber bullying?
“Cyber bullying is bullying that happens online. It can happen in an email, a text message, an online game or on a social networking site. It might involve rumors or images posted on someone’s profile or passed around for other people to see.” (Source: OnGuard Online)
What are some examples of cyber bullying?
- posting pictures/videos that are mean or make funny of someone
- writing mean or hurtful things
- spreading rumors
- sending or forwarding mean text messages
- posting pictures/videos WITHOUT someone’s permission
What makes cyber bullying different from regular bullying?
In a way, cyber bullying can be worse than regular bullying. A bully can be escaped when leaving school (or wherever the incident is taking place). A cyber bully is always there – on social networking sites, through text messages or emails, on YouTube. Cyber bullies are not left behind when the bell rings at the end of the school day. They follow you.
Cyber bullying also spreads quicker than regular bullying. A picture or video is posted that hurts someone’s feelings, and within minutes an entire community is reached through social networking sites. The incident no longer involves just a bully and a victim, but involves the entire community.
What should you/your child do if someone is cyber bullying?
- Don’t respond or react – bullies are looking for a reaction from their victim.
- Block or delete the bully.
- Report abuse to the website where it is taking place.
- Contact a parent, trusted adult, school official or law enforcement.
- Be sure to save the evidence!
Often, children are not the cyber bullies themselves, but they witness the bullying taking place. What should a child do in this case? Or a parent? Please, please, please encourage children to tell the bully to stop. If that does not work, tell an adult!
Where are the places most of the cyber bullying is taking place?
- Social Networking Sites – Sites like Facebook are the most common place for cyber bullies to take control.
- Video Game Chat Capabilities
- YouTube – YouTube, a video posting channel, has become a cruel outlet for cyber bullies. Videos are made and posted often making fun of someone or spreading false rumors about the victim.
How can you help? Spread the word about the CyberIQ Road Show! We are here to talk to children and teenagers, as well as parents. We want to take the power away from the bullies. We also emphasize that the child is responsible for their actions – they know there are consequences to what they post online, and they are responsible for those. For more information on the CyberIQ Road Show, contact me at [email protected].
Here are some great resources that you can share with your child, your child’s teacher and other parents on cyber bullying:
- OnGuard Online: OnGuard Online is a government website providing information on cybersafety. They have a great section dedicated to protecting kids online. You can also order free materials for classes and workshops.
- Wired Safety Video: This is a great video with real interviews with real teenagers who have been cyber bullied.
Join us in the mission to promote cyber safety!