Cyber bullying is the intentional bullying of another person through electronic means. On a computer it may be through social networking sites, instant messaging, forums, blogs, chat rooms and email. Off the computer it is done through mobile phones.
Cyber bullying is the number one concern facing children today. Recent studies conducted by the Peace Foundation throughout 40 countries have revealed that New Zealand has the second highest number of reported cyber bullying cases.
We are not trying to wrap our kids up in cotton wool. Cyber bullying is relentless. It is 24/7 and destructive. For the victim it causes stress, anxiety and has played a part in some teen suicides.
Victims of cyber bullying may show signs of withdrawl, may avoid the computer, may get nervous when an email or a text arrives, may have poor marks at school, show a lack of participation, be anxious and show stress, or may have mood swings.
As parents, we need to be aware of the signs. As parents, we need to educate ourselves with monitoring software available, that can manage cyber bullying. WebSafety NZ (www.websafety.co.nz)install various monitoring software on home computers to monitor for cyber bullying and self harm conversations. They also offer cell phone number blocking software to manage cyber bullying.
Parents need to empower their children to also STOP bullying. Remember, it is not only children that are the victims, children are also the perpetrators! By explaining the effects of cyber bullying to your children, they will start to understand how destructive the behaviour is. They may also be able to play a part in preventing it in the future.
I highly recommend the 'cyber bullying' site within NetSafe (www.netsafe.org.nz). There are two 6 minute movies on cyber bullying. One is a New Zealand dramatisation aimed at Primary School age level, and another aimed at High School aged children. It is well woth looking at.