By Dennis Nelson, Community Outreach and Policy Coordinator / City of Milton
Kids are using computers now more than ever before. They are required for school work and research, but also used for exploring, playing games and socializing. With the use of new technologies come new problems.
Like many other social situations, some kids like to bully other kids online. Cyberbullying is very similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, even anonymous users; however, most often kids are very familiar with or know their victims.
Parents can help stop cyberbullying. They can start by researching what cyberbullying is, then talking to their kids about the issue. Once armed with information, parents can teach their kids the rules below to help prevent cyberbullying.
What Kids Need to Know
Never give out personal information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs or personal Web sites.
Never tell anyone but your parents your passwords, including friends.
If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don't respond to it. Save it or print it out and show it to an adult.
Never open e-mails from someone you don't know or from someone you know is a bully.
Don't put anything online that you wouldn't want your classmates to see, even in an e-mail.
Don't send messages when you're angry. Before clicking "send," ask yourself how you would feel if it was you receiving that message.
Help kids who are bullied online by not joining in and showing their bullying messages to an adult.
Always be as polite online as you are in person.
Since most cyberbullying messages are read at home, it's important that parents know about the issue and get involved in preventing it. Just like parents help their kids avoid inappropriate Web sites, they can also protect them from cyberbullying.
What Parents Can Do
Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house.
Set up e-mail and chat accounts with your children. Make sure that you know their screen names and passwords and that they don't include any personal information in their online profiles.
Regularly go over their instant messenger "buddy list" with them. Ask who each person is and how your children know him or her.
Print the list of commonly used acronyms in instant messenger and chat rooms from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and post it by your computer.
Discuss cyberbullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
Talk to your children. Tell them that you won't blame them if they are ever cyberbullied. Emphasize that you won't take away their computer privileges. This is the main reason kids don't tell adults when they are cyberbullied.
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