Cyberbullying: Is Your Kid Involved?

Since Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide, cyberbullying has (yet again) been brought to the forefront of our attention—leaving many parents concerned about what their kids are doing online and how they can prevent something bad from happening in the future.

Clementi, age 18, is believed to have jumped to his death after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and fellow student Molly Wei, released a video of him having sexual relations with another man online. The two students have been criminally charged with invasion of privacy and could face up to 5 years in prison.

Clementi’s suicide is unfortunately only one of a handful of heartbreaking deaths related to teenage cyberbullying that have occurred recently.

Contrary to what most people think, cyberbullying isn’t the same as traditional bullying. It exists on a whole new playing field—a devastating one at that. Once comments and photos are released on the world-wide web, they spread like wild fire, and don’t go away.

Chances are, you already know what cyberbullying is, but do you know what the odds are that your kid could be involved? They could be a victim, or even a bully.

Now, you probably don’t think your kid would be involved in cyberbullying in any way, right? After you read these numbers, you might think twice:

  • Over 40% of all teenagers have reported being bullied online.
  • Only 15% of parents are “in the know” about their kids’ social networking habits, and how these behaviors can lead to cyberbullying.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to be the target of cyberbullying.
  • The most common virtual locations for cyberbullying are chat rooms, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, email and instant message systems.
  • Most teens, 60% of boys and 70% of girls, see online bullying as a serious problem and feel there should be stricter rules about it.
  • 53% of 4th through 8th grade students reported that they have said mean or hurtful things to others online. 42% said that they had been “bullied online”—almost 60% admitted that they never told their parents about the incident.

What’s a worried mom to do? The best thing you can do is teach your kids about cyberbullying. Talk to them! Explain exactly what cyberbullying is, emphasize the severity of harassing others online, and stress to them how important it is that they tell you or another adult if they or anyone they know, are being harassed.

Teach your kids that silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable. Tell them to stand up for what’s right. They could end up saving someone’s life.

Have your kids ever been cyberbullied? If so, how did you deal with the situation?

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