The Invisible Bully
by Katie Sullivan
Cyberbullying. It’s real. It’s terrible, and it’s happening in your backyard. As a single parent, the burden falls on you to stop this from happening.
A teenage girl from Acworth was in the process of filing a lawsuit against several of her classmates for a cyberbullying attack, according to abcNews.com. The students created a Facebook page that portrayed the girl in a false and negative light. An altered photo of the girl was seen on the website as well as false depictions about her social life. The students carried out cyberbullying attacks on other students at their school using the girl’s fake Facebook page.
It’s only considered cyberbullying when the participants are minors. It’s kids harassing kids through online devices. This is not an adult situation.
What is Cyberbullying?
There are two sides to cyberbullying: direct attacks like what the Acworth students did when creating the Facebook page and bullying via second party, which the students also did. In Georgia, as well as several other states, cyberbullying is a legal and punishable offense, according to DoSomething.org.
Is Your Child a Victim?
If you are unsure if your child may be a current victim of cyberbullying, there are several things you can do. Reputation.com has an online reputation monitoring tool that reports on how much positive and negative information is available online about the person being searched.
Watch your child’s behavior. According to Dr. Michele Borba, a child expert and educational consultant, your child may suddenly behave differently as a result of cyberbullying:
- Disinclined to instant or text message, check email or social media sites
- Upset after using a computer or cell phone
- Spends unusual amounts of time online
- Withdraws from friends, wants to avoid school or falls behind in schoolwork
- Change in personality or behavior
- Trouble sleeping, excessively moody, seems depressed, loss of appetite
- Suspicious emails, phone calls and packages to your home
What You Can Do
Monitor your children’s online presence. Have them accept you on all of their social media pages. That way, you will know if someone is portraying your child in a false and negative light. Since cyberbullies are also skilled at identity theft, know your child’s email address. If you see something coming from them that is outside of their realm of everyday activities and thoughts, something may be up.
National figures show that 66 percent of parents are on the same social-networking sites as their children for monitoring and safety purposes.
You’re the Parent, Not the Friend
Your children may find this a hindrance at first. You might remind them of the Acworth story, or several of the more damaging stories involving cyberbullying. Numerous suicides have been reported due in part to online harassment and attacks.
DoSomething.org suggests you setup an event similar to minute dating. Gather a group of children and have them ask each other a prescribed list of questions. After five minutes, they switch partners.
The aim is to get students interacting positively by knowing something about each other.
A librarian and freelance writer, Katie is a strong supporter of women in the workforce and shares tips on how to be a great working mom.