Protecting your kids from online cyberbullying?

August 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Is your child getting bullied in cyberspace? It's happening with alarming frequency. Yahoo! Web Life Editor Heather Cabot explains what you can do to prevent it.

What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when a child is harassed, humiliated, taunted or threatened via technology. It can happen through email, text message, instant messaging. It can happen via blogging, through social networking, on video posting sites, and even in the world of video games. The rise of technology in our children's world has taken the age-old schoolyard name calling, pushes and shoves and transformed them into 24/7 attacks that transcend the safe boundaries of school and home.

Why can cyberbullying be more devastating to a victim?
A victim can be attacked at any time, any place even without his or her knowledge. And because technology is so pervasive, bullying at school can easily spill over into off hours any time of the day. No more is home a safe haven or a retreat from taunts or threats. And, according to iSAFE, a nonprofit that trains schools in Internet safety, "Traditional bullies typically have power over their victims because of physical size or popularity, while cyber bullies can harass victims anonymously, allowing the bully to be in a position of power regardless of size or social status." Last, through the viral nature of the web, the attacks can potentially take place in front of an audience of millions.

How common is it?
i-SAFE says among the students it's trained at more than 6 million schools, more than 50% of students say they cyber bully others. And more than half say they've been victims of online harassment.

How do I know if my child is being bullied or is bullying someone else?
Often the signs are very similar to when a child is being bullied in real life. He or she may be withdrawn, depressed, not wanting to go to school. Experts say often the victims of cyber bullies have bullied others. Reversing roles is common so it's important to be aware of how your child interacts with his or her peers.

What can I do to prevent it?
Talk to your child from a very early age about your values. Explain that the Golden Rule applies in cyberspace and that you have high expectations.

1. Explain to your child that his or her password is private and should not be shared with others. He or she should also resist sharing buddy lists with friends because it can increase the chances of being bullied.

2. Talk with your child about privacy and why posting personal information is not a good idea. Children should never share phone numbers, addresses, school names, etc. in a public forum. A bully can often use this information against his or her victims.

3. Help your child deal with emotions. Explain that he or she shouldn't respond to a message when he or she is angry. Taking five and pausing before sending off something mean can prevent a conflict from escalating, according to Stop Cyber Bulling.org (stopcyberbullying.org)

4. Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if he or she is being bullied.

5. Read up on the latest trends on the Parents channel on kids.yahoo.com. Yahoo has put together a useful and user-friendly safety guide for parents.

What do I do if I find out my child is a victim?

1. Save the messages as evidence. Block any new incoming messages. Don't engage the bully.

2. If it is school related (and these conflicts usually are) notify the school so officials have a heads up about the situation. New state laws are changing how much authority schools have over cyberbullying complaints. But if messages or blogging, etc. is happening on school equipment, the school may have some recourse.

3. If your child is threatened with physical harm, notify local authorities immediately.

About Heather Cabot
Heather Cabot is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of www.thewellmom.com, a new weekly e-zine that empowers and inspires moms to better care for themselves in mind, body and spirit. She also serves as Web Life Editor for Yahoo!.

Cabot has spent more than 15 years as TV reporter and anchor. Prior to founding The Well Mom, Inc., she co-anchored World News Now and World News This Morning, the overnight and early morning network news broadcasts for ABC News. During her tenure at ABC News, Cabot also reported for Good Morning America, World News Tonight, ABC News Radio, abcnews.com and served as a national correspondent for 200+ local ABC affiliate stations around the country and international partners including the BBC and NHK. While at ABC, she covered major national news events including, the hunt and capture of the DC Snipers, the Columbia Shuttle disaster, the Martha Stewart Trial, the 2004 Presidential Race, and numerous hurricanes.

Leading up to her time at the network, Cabot spent close to a decade reporting on local news, including working for NBC affiliate KUSA-TV in Denver where was among the first on the scene of the Columbine High School shootings. She was the station's education reporter at the time and went on to cover the aftermath of the tragedy and to delve into the implications on schools in Colorado and across the nation. In 2000, Cabot was named a "Woman of Achievement" by the Denver chapter of Women in Communications for serving the public with her reporting on schools.

Cabot was also honored with a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association in 1997. The prize of this national competition provided her the opportunity to spend ten months on Capitol Hill studying the legislative process in the offices of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Congresswoman Karen Thurman (D-FL).

In addition to her extensive work as a broadcaster, Cabot is also a freelance writer whose stories been published in USA Today, People, The Baltimore Sun and The Denver Post.

She grew up in Phoenix and holds a BA in English and Philosophy from Simmons College and an MS from the Columbia University School of Journalism, where she met her husband, former 60 Minutes Producer and Yahoo! Programming Exec Neeraj Khemlani. They are parents to 18-month-old twins.


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