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As its name implies, cyberbullying is bullying through an electronic medium, such as a computer or cell phone.
The Internet’s reach and perceived anonymity means that children who might not otherwise initiate bullying may initiate this sort of behaviour, and an unlimited number of young people may become bystanders who perpetuate the victimization as they read and forward harassing messages and/or images.
It is extremely important that young people learn how to respond to cyberbullying. Adults can help.
Signs that your child is being bullied online include fear of using the computer or going to school, anxiety and psychological distress, and withdrawal from friends and usual activities.
As a large portion of cyberbullying occurs in the home, you must get better informed about your children’s online activities. Get involved and talk to your child about behaving ethically online.
Establish rules regarding appropriate Internet use. MediaSmarts research shows that these rules have a very positive impact on your children’s online behaviour. You can consult MediaSmarts' resources on developing household Internet rules.
Urge your children to come to you as soon as they feel uncomfortable or threatened online.
It can be difficult for a young person to come forward when being bullied; even to mum or dad. To foster a climate of trust, do not overreact. Do not forbid your child to use the Internet in the hope of eliminating the source of the problem: for your child, this is the equivalent of social death and will leave her or him feeling even more victimized (not to mention the fact that an extreme reaction such as this will probably cause your child to avoid confiding in you again when feeling threatened).
As much as possible, show an interest in your child’s online life: where does he or she go online? What does he or she do? What is it about these online experiences that are so absorbing? If you’re in the habit of sharing your own online experiences with your child, she or he will be more likely to talk to you when having a negative experience.
If you want to better understand your child’s online experience, go to MediaSmarts' BeWebAware site at http://www.bewebaware.ca.
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