How to Stop The Cyber Bully – Kids Internet Safety

How to Stop The Cyber Bully — Early Warning Signs, Trust, Openness & Guidance

Steo The Cyber Bully - Kids Internet SafetyWithout any doubt, cyber bulling is an aggressive act. Some of us learn to be more aggressive than others, but in my opinion we can calm the cyber bully by teaching them to unlearn aggressive behaviors? I believe it is 100% possible for anyone to unlearn anything — Psychology 101, Watson and Skinner on Operant Conditioning. But just like everything else there is another side to every story.

There is the victim of who is being cyber bullied, the viral technology that is being used by more than 2 billion people (probably not all 2 billion, but definitely the majority), and parents of the cyber bully victim.  Instead of focusing on the cyber bully, confronting them, and teaching them to unlearn an aggressive behavior, I will take a more passive approach and focus on the issues and solutions from the perspective of the cyber bullied kid, his parents and the technology.

With that being said, similar to how many things are being done on the Internet today, bullying is not immune, and has moved onto the Internet. The Internet, and especially the social networking platforms (eg.Facebook, Myspace, Google+, etc.), cyber bullies now have another vehicle to abuse other kids.

The following statistics depict the seriousness of cyber bullying.

  • More than 20% of kids ranging from 11-18 years, who where randomly selected to participate in a survey , indicated that they were victims of cyber bullying
  • More than 93% of kids between 12 and 17 use the Internet, and 70% of those kids on the Internet use social media like Facebook and Myspace. These social media technologies assist in the viral nature of spreading the cyber bullying word.
  • About 71% of teens think that blocking abusive messages is the most effective way to prevent and stop cyber bullying.
  • Recent bullying statistics admit that half of all bullying incidents go unreported.  Cyber bullying statistics indicate even less of these are reported.

The Cyber Bully Victim – Early Warning Signs

As a parent of the cyber bully victim, it is exceptionally absolutely imperative to be aware of the early warning signs, symptoms, and reasons before staging any intervention behind cyber bullying.

cyber bully affects real lives - kids internet safetyFirstly, as a calibration, a definition of cyber bullying — Cyber bullying can be defined as any act carried out on the Internet to humiliate, hurt or harm another person. While people of all ages can be subjected to the acts of a cyber bully, there is no need to elaborate how important it is to make sure that your kids are safe from becoming a cyber bully victim – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Bulliers often become the bullies”, and we do not want our kids to bully or be bullied. If it does happen, we then want to know how to fix it, elegantly, calmly, and passively.

The signs that the cyber bullied kid shows may not seem that obvious at first. Even though parenting is tough work — much guesswork, just in time learning, and at times it seems like you need to have a sixth sense about your kid’s disposition. Well, this is one of those times when you may have to use your intuitive skills to ‘see’ the signs your cyber bullied kid is trying to show you. Please keep mind that cyber bullying is not really that different from bullying in person. It just has another medium to communicate and spread the bully’s message – the Internet. So how you handle cyber bullying is very similar to how you would handle bullying.

Your intuition will tell you when something is not quite right with your kid. For example: Your child spends every waking moment in front of technology (that’s another story), and all of sudden, one day you notice that your kid does go near a computer or the Internet. That may be ok for one day. However, if that behavior persisted for a few  days, then you would probably be concerned. If you are like me, then you would think “that’s a little strange”; And that’s what I call “parent’s intuition” – that 6th sense I mentioned above.  Every parent has it, and you need to listen to it. Early warning signs will be part of your intuition.

Other warning signs exist too. We’ll take a look at what signs the cyber bully victim shows, the technology they use, and actions you can take to stop, or at least, prevent cyber bullying.

What Is Normal?

stop the cyber bully - not normal behavior

Normal is relative word. Every kid will have their own norm, and you, as a parent, need to understand your kids’ normal Internet activity. How often they usually use the Internet? What are they doing on the Internet? Do they use cell phones or other devices to connect onto the Internet? These questions will help you establish your own kids norm.

Keep in mind that the 13+ year olds on the Internet and who use social networking applications is a huge and growing force. The amount of hours that they spend on their social networking platform has also increased dramatically over the years. Once you understand your kid’s ‘normal’ social networking usage, their ‘normal’ online behavior will become obvious and yo will be able to identify ‘the signs’ a lot easier.

If your child suddenly seems to withdraw from the Internet, you should assume that they may be experiencing some sort of issue. You should, however, recognize that there are other ways to connect to the Internet, not just through conventional devices like PC,  MAC, Desktop/Notebook, etc. It may look like your child has withdrawn, but in fact they are connecting through another medium.

The child can connect to the Internet using, for example, a cell phone. In fact the number of Internet connected cell phones is growing steadily, and kids are avid users of cell phones to connect to the Internet. Just like desktops and notebooks, this is one of the benchmarks you need to understand in order to gauge your kids normal Internet behavior. On the other hand, it’s also important to recognize that your kid may be a cell phone cyber bully recipient.

Normal Signs

stop the cyber bully - growingupand normalCyber bullying may cause the bullied to withdraw from everyday tasks — Just another sign that a child may be a victim of the cyber bully. We should understand that teenagers and pre-teens sometimes withdrawal, even for no apparent reason. Withdrawal under ‘normal circumstances’ is typically directed towards parents and family members, while they will continue with normal interactions with their peers. Acts of cyber bullying, on the other hand, may cause a child to become withdrawn from their friends too. Again, another sign of being cyber bullied, but also a way to understand your kids normal baseline.

In most cases, bullies or cyber bullies want to give the impression that they are superior by poking fun (often via very hurtful methods) at others. A kid who becomes embarrassed or is made uncomfortable due to cyber bullying episodes, may have difficulties facing their friends (who may have laughed or observed the cyber bully incident) or their parents (who, may not fully comprehend the situation). Cyber bully victims rarely speak about the bullying incidents to friends and family, because they fear that the situation may get worse, and the cyber bullying situation will just continue.

Private and Public Figures

stop the cyber bully - invisible bullyThe cyber bully can make themselves and the bullying issues seem ‘invisible’ (Technically, however, they both can be tracked). The ‘invisibility’ provides the illusion of anonymity to the cyber bully. The attacks, for example, could take place in private message boxes, well out of sight from everyone else. Cyber bullying may come in the form of offensive messages, foul language, and even violent threats. These private bully attacks hide the cyber bully from the public, and may leave the bullied child scared, worried, and even lonely. It is know that a child who is being subject to severe cyber bullying may display extreme frustration, anger, sadness, or personality changes. The worst part of this, is that these cyber threats takes place behind closed doors, away from the public, and very hard to identify.

Public cyber bullying allows the cyber bully to be visible. By nature of technology, those who participate in cyber bullying are able to spread the cyber bully word in a viral nature – exponentially. The issues & impact can become more dangerous than that of the ‘invisible’ cyber bully. As an example, the Phoebe Prince suicide case was a public cyber bully situation that got out of hand.

Recognize the Call

Most kids are not well equipped to stop the cyber bully by themselves, but depending on their age, they will probably rationalize the cyber bullying situations to different degrees. Some may say they can handle it themselves. Some will probably retreat. Some may say that they can handle it themselves, but in reality they need help. Your job will be to recognize that they need help.

The Trusted Call For Help

stop cyber bully - intuition chineseYour kid has just moved out of their ‘normal’ behavior range, and has retreated. Your intuition tells you that you need to start a well guided conversation with your kid. By that time, hopefully both of you have a trusting and open relationship. A lot will depend on the trust factor alone, especially when it comes to your kids wanting to depend on your help.  Keep in mind that your kid has probably used your help in the past to resolve a difficult situation for them. So, why should this situation and the techniques be any different? Trust will help resolve the cyber bully situation.

Even though listening plays an exceptionally large part in your understanding of the cyber bullying situation, it’s as important to guide the conversation in a direction that you need to  – To resolve the issue you need to get to the root cause.  You’ll probably have to do some digging and mining of information to formulate the situation properly.

stop the cyber bully - children technologyYou will probably need access to your kids cell phone, Facebook account, and whatever else is necessary to resolve the situation. Ask your kid to help with this.  Reassurance is also key. Your kid may not want to share anything with you at first, but reassurance will go a long way.  Let your kid know that they are in safe hands and step them through your intent and how you plan to resolve the situation.

So far, you can probably tell that the solution lies within Parenting 101. The only difference between now and then is before your parenting skills were used face-to-face with people, and this time you are dealing with a combination of face-to-face and the Internet world. It is time to move those parenting skills over to the online world.

Forget the technology for now. Most importantly, try establishing the impact that the cyber bullying on your kid – their fears, concerns, who may be bind the cyber bullying, and as many details possible to put together a coherent story.

The easiest (yet still difficult and cumbersome) of the cyber bully situations to handle is if the cyber bully is located at the same school as your kid. After getting all the facts, I would just walk into the school, speak with the Principal, and get it the situation fixed. On the other hand, the more difficult cyber bullying situations may require a custom made fix – legal, cyber bully family, another country, etc.

Pass Down The Wisdom

stop the cyber bully - wisdom

It’s your obligation to ensure that your cyber bullied kid is being guided them emotionally as well as technically. I’m fortunate enough to be able to handle the parenting & the technical part equally. In fact some may say I’m stronger technically, only because I’ve had more experience in that domain. I will, however,  help you through the technical stuff. It is important that you to learn about the technology that your kids are using. It’s not as scary as it seems – parenting skills are scarier.

From a technical perspective you can help your kid ‘lock down’ their technology, give them usage guidelines, and guide them on the correct way to use the technologies. You just need to make sure you understand sufficient information in order to guide them correctly.  Get into their world. Not only will it help you understand what they are doing with the technology, but it can be fun too. Most kids are avid technology users & use the Internet extensively. You should share some of their excitement.

If you need a technical boost, the Internet has an ample supply of anything you want to know about anything — available at all times. If your kid uses Google + as a social tool, then key in “Google + tutorial” in a search engine of your choice. You may be overwhelmed by the number of tutorials available, but my guess is that by the end of the tutorials you will have sufficient information to help your kid setup Google + correctly. Search for tutorials on the different Internet tools your kid uses.

Engage your kid in the different cyber bullying scenarios and what they may be able to do to resolve the issues. Teach them about appropriate Internet and mobile phone usage. Put them in a position that they are better prepared to avoid or fix cyber bully incidents. Pass down & educate your kids, with the knowledge you picked up along the way.

Unfortunately, every cyber bully situation will be different — different circumstances, different ages, and different people with different personalities.  The human component is the wild card, but a little common sense, an evaluation of each situation, and acting on the information you have. As you can see, there is no secret formula to handle to human side of the equation of cyber bullying.

stop the cyber bully - google facebookTechnology, on the other hand, is more black and white. From a perspective of guiding and managing the safety of your kids on the Internet, you will need to get sufficient knowledge (and it is not a lot) to understand what your kids are doing on the Internet. Once you are over the education hump you should be able to manage and guide them in areas like: How to set privacy settings on your social network accounts, how to remove or turn off geo tagged information from pictures and videos, how to enable a private and secure GPS, how to manage Internet and cell phone usage, and how to deal with cyber bully texting, etc. Again, I urge you to search the Internet for tutorials on any of the topics mentioned in this paragraph.

It is imperative to guide children correctly – emotionally and technically. If they are unable to manage their own technology – cell phone, Internet usage, desktops, game consoles, etc. then reserve a little time for your technical boost. By guiding them to manage their technology correctly youstop the cyber bully -lockdown will have battled a big chunk of stopping the cyber bully. Emotionally, is different story, and that comes to trust, openness, and basically parenting 101. Educate your kid about social network privacy. Teach them not to add untrusted friends to their social network. Make sure they understand how to lockdown their social network settings in order for private information to remain private.  They need to manage their cell and desktop Internet usage. Make sure they understand when it’s time for light out. Teach them how or how not to respond to cyber bully threats – not responding is often the best approach.  Let them know that they should ask for your assistance at any time to resolve a cyber bully incident. The knowledge you pass down will make your kid more independent, and safer on the Internet.

The combination of identifying the early warning signs, having a trusted and open relationship with your kid, and emotional and technical guidance seems (at least to me) a solid approach to stop the cyber bully.


For the polished original article source please go to Early Warning Signs – The Cyber Bully

Recommended Cyber Bully Resources please go to Cyber Bully Resources

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