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Now, They?re Bullying My Daughter in Our Home: Welcome to Cyber-bullying

Last night Tom's daughter, Sue, came out of her room to see her dad and said, "I got another one of those instant messages. It says, 'tomorrow you had better not show up at school or else'." She has been getting messages like this now for weeks. The result of this is that she no longer likes to turn her computer on.

Sue is now 14 years-old and in the 8th grade. She has been bullied at school for a number of years and they have had a difficult time getting the Principal and teachers to put a stop to it. Sue has two disadvantages that make her a target. First, she has always had a weight problem, not extremely heavy but just a little over weight. Second, her last name is hard to pronounce. This has led to numerous ways to say and spell her name. They have been very creative and cruel. Tom is aware that she needs to lose about 20 pounds but what can he do about his name, change it?

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but as technology changes we all adjust; unfortunately, so do the bullies. Bullying has gone wireless. These are situations our children face that we never did.

How does this happen? The internet, cell phones with text messaging, instant messaging, camera phones and e-mail are the bullies new tools.

This is coming to a school near you if it hasn't already. The concerns involving cyber-bullying include:

1. Cyberbullying can be much more damaging psychologically and can be much more intense.

2. It creates a barrier between the bully and the victim. This can make anyone who normally wouldn't be a bully now becomes a potential bully because there is no face to face contact. Smaller students have found a way to act tough.

3. It is very difficult to catch the bully. When the victim is suspected or caught their defense is that it was someone else impersonating me or someone must of used my password.

4. Camera phones is making cyber-bullying more creative. Taking someone's picture and then manipulating it. When finished it is posted on a web site or e-mailed out. Imagine getting an e-mail of a nude individual with your face attached to it, and you're only a teenager.

5. Many think this is a joke and not as serious as bullying face to face.

Parents must be aware

Many kids, including Sue, do not want to report this problem to their parents for fear of how their parents may react. Many believe their parents will take away their cell phone, computer, or internet access. This is an obvious solution to stopping the messages, but it is only a temporary one. Sue feels harassed by the bully and punished by her parents when her equipment is removed. This is a double punishment for her.

SOLUTIONS are available - ask questions and act as if you're unfamiliar with the topic. For example, Have you ever heard of anyone receiving improper messages on their phone? Does anyone at school use their camera phones for taking pictures of others who don't want their picture taken? Then Sue's dad should educate her about each situation and how to handle it when and if it arises.

Text Messaging ­ When Sue receives an obscene message, threat, or abusive message on her phone teach her to not respond. Your wireless provider should be notified to see how they handle this situation.

Chat-rooms and Instant Messaging ­ This is what we need to teach Sue:

1. She should never give out her personal information.

2. She should not share her password.

3. If Sue receives inappropriate messages, have her disconnect or block the sender.

4. She should not respond to inappropriate messages. We do not want a dialogue to begin.

5. She should avoid giving out the name of her school.

6. No child should ever agree to meet anyone from a chat-room. That 17 year-old stud just may be a 53 year -old bald man with a pot belly.

E-Mail ­ Once again, when Sue is sent an inappropriate email, she should not respond. Go to the source button to find out information on tracking where it was sent from. If it was sent from someone at school, then print the e-mail to use as proof. Sue's parents can contact the school or their service provider to see what options are available. If there are threats involved, then contacting the police is always an option.

Look into e-mail filters, creating folders for these e-mails, and spam software to block them. Whatever you choose, it will never be 100% perfect in blocking unwanted e-mails.

Here are some warning signs that Sue's dad needs to be aware of and Sue needs to inform an adult if she comes across these:

· If anyone insists on having her send her personnel information to the online "buddy."

· If she is sent messages, pictures, or offered gifts and told not to share these them with anyone.

· If she is requested to send pictures of herself to the e-mailer.

Remember adults do not make friends with children over the internet, then tell the child to keep it quiet without a purpose.

Handling the topic of cyber-bullying with your child before it becomes a problem will make it easier when and if it becomes a problem. Your child needs your guidance and ignoring this issue does not help or support anyone who is a victim of cyber-bullying.

Derek Randel is a parent coach who consults and works with parents in removing the yelling from their home. He has started http://www.stoppingschoolviolence.com a program for parents to help stop bullying. He has authored three books and can be reached at 847-853-4308 or derek@randelconsulting.com

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