The Forms of Electronic Intimidation
The Executive Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, Nancy Willard, lists seven types of cyberbullying in her presentation notes for Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, Cyber-Secure Schools. Some of these forms of intimidation such as flaming have been around for many years. Others such as harassment and outing are older concepts which have been adapted for electronic use. Sexting or sending nude photos via cellphone is another form of electronic intimidation.
A Cyber World
We parents have always had difficulty understanding how and why our children socialize the way they do. Engaging in non-approved activities is something children have done probably since time immemorial. Unfortunately for most parents, electronic activities are extremely difficult to monitor. Most children have a cellphone and Internet access. They send instant messages and text constantly. They live in virtual communities such as Facebook. They blog and communicate via comments left on music and video sites such as YouTube. Opportunities for cyberbullying are everywhere.
What's a parent to do? How on earth do we monitor those kinds of electronic activities? We do what we have always done: we discuss the issues; we teach children to act responsibly; we exercise constant vigilance.
The worst thing we can do is to pretend that cyberbullying does not exist. Discuss it calmly and rationally with your children, just as you do any other serious issue such as sex and spending money. The earlier you have this discussion, the better prepared and equipped your child is for her first encounter with electronic intimidation.
Speak with your school and understand what the policies about intimidation and harassment are. Hopefully the school has a zero tolerance policy towards such activities. Make sure that your children understand the consequences of violating those rules.