You may be familiar with traditional bullying. You may remember fellow students being teased when you were in school--maybe you were the one being bullied, or even the one doing the bullying. It's important to understand that these days, bullying isn't confined to the school yard. It's also done online. Known as cyber bullying, it can be just as detrimental and harmful to your child as traditional bullying.
Cyber bullying can include any of the following: a student stealing your child's username and password and then posting vulgar or other unwanted messages on your child's Facebook profile page; sending threatening messages through IM or chats; posting mean messages to discussion boards or blogs, to name a few.
You're probably wondering how you would even know if your child was a victim of cyber bullying. Keep an eye out for damaged or missing clothes or other items that belong to your child. Have there been any unexplained bruises or injuries? Does your child frequently make excuses so he or she doesn't have to go to school? Has he or she lost interest in things that used to make him or her happy? Have you noticed any shifts in mood or lack of appetite? These are all signs your child could be the victim of a bully. Odds are if your child is being bullied on the playground, he or she is being bullied on the Internet, as well.
If you notice any of these signs, talk to your child and ask what's going on. They may be reluctant to tell you for several reasons: they could be scared that you'll tell their teacher and that they will be perceived as a tattle-tale, or they could be afraid of retribution from the bully if they tell someone. However, bullying can't be tolerated. It can often lead to seriously dangerous actions.
Even if your child isn't currently a victim of cyber bullying, you can help them prevent it or try to avoid it. Remind your child of the Internet house rules which include not giving any of their personal information including usernames and passwords to anyone else - even their friends.
Let your child know that if he or she ever receives a threatening message or believes someone has gotten a hold of their username or password to tell you immediately. And tell them not to respond to any of these antics.
Also talk to your child about how it would feel to be the victim of a bully or cyber bully. This will hopefully prevent them from participating in bullying themselves.
And always monitor your child's Internet use - what sites they're going on to, who they're chatting with etc. This way, you'll be ahead of the game and be able to catch cyber bullying as soon as it starts.