People Skills

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Cyber-bullying defenses

Tips from the Times to fight Cyberbullying

 

Hopefully all parents are aware of the danger of cyber-bullying, children using the internet social networking sites, email and texting to harass and shame other children.  For anyone who is not a reader of the NY Times, there is an article by Riva Richmond that gives parents specific information on how to use technology to fight back. Rather than try to repeat the article, I’m including the link to it:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/technology/personaltech/19basics.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Use%20technology%20to%20stop%20cyberbullies&st=cse.  

I’m assuming (not always safe) that a parent can differentiate an on-line argument between kids who will forget it tomorrow from a sustained pattern of bullying. Sustained bullying does not build character in victims, and it doesn’t build values and solid relationship skills in bullies.

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Cyberbullying brings meanness to a new level. It is public, and it invites others to join in on a much wider scale than is possible in person. Anything on the web is around for a very long time. It could be googled – it’s humiliation to a new depth.

I find kids – and parents – can be afraid to confront abusers. “What if the parents are my friends?” was the response of one parent. “It's too awkward," or, "I don’t want to get them in trouble.”  News flash –the bully is going to be in a lot more trouble if he or she doesn’t learn about his or her behavior. A friend would want to know if your child was being hurt. Kids will be kids - and responsible parents want to teach limits. If a parent just can't call the other parent, call the principal at the kids' school.

The role of schools in handling cyberbullying has been debated. Actions out of school have not traditionally been the province of schools, but increasingly, schools are involved and taking action. I spoke with a teacher and a principal that I know, and both said that cyberbullying is dealt with in their schools. The impact certainly comes into school: the victim can’t learn when everyone moment is spent feeling laughed at, bullies need to learn the limits of permissible behavior with their peers, and bystanders need to understand that they too play a role by allowing this to go on. Most schools already have bullying policies that can be applied.

 Many children are afraid to tell about bullying, fearing that any action by the parents or the school will get them into deeper trouble and result in more bullying. There has to be close supervision and response to any retaliation. We have to be clear: bullying is not OK.

 

Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D., is an attending faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Norwalk Hospital.

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