Technology May Open Door to E-Bullies

“As we all settle into back-to-school routines, I urge you to discuss cyberbullying, or e-bullying, with your kids.”

By Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning

As a parent, I’ve witnessed the increasing role technology plays in our kids’ lives. Educators today rely on computers and the Internet to expand lessons outside the classroom. Students use these resources daily to do research, create interactive projects and prepare presentations. Our children also use social media sites to stay in touch with friends and form homework help groups. The Internet has opened a door to possibilities in education not considered possible twenty years ago. Unfortunately, these same technologies have also opened the door to a new threat – cyberbullying.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, Cyberbullying can be defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” E-Bullies send messages via email or text and use networking sites, chat rooms, or blogs to threaten and harass their victims. The Internet allows e-bullies to make their attacks anonymously and many victims are vulnerable in the place they should feel most safe – their own home.

According to a study by the National Crime Prevention Council, 96 percent of American teens use the Internet and have a personal email account. The study showed four in ten teens (43%) reported they had experienced some form of cyberbullying in the previous 12 months. Of those experiencing bullying, kids were more than twice as likely to tell a friend than a parent.

There are a few simple things we can do to help protect our children from cyberbullies. Encourage your kids to tell you or a teacher if they’ve received mean, embarrassing or threatening messages. Tell your child not to respond to rude e-mails, messages and/or comments. Help empower them by working with them to block or report the sender’s messages.

Set Internet and/or electronic device guidelines for your kids – including expectations about using chat rooms, blogs and networking sites. And, watch for signs your children are being bullied. These signs can include nightmares, avoiding school, acting withdrawn, declining grades and/or appearing stressed when receiving an e-mail, instant message, or text.

Remind your kids about Internet Safety basics like protecting personal information such as name, age and school of attendance. Keep computers used by your children in common areas of your home and know what sites they use and how they use them. Make sure they know the dangers of meeting someone in person they only know from online communication.

If you think a cyberbully is targeting your child, report the incident to the website administrator, Internet service provider and/or cell phone service. Keep the e-mails and text messages and take screenshots of comments and/or images. If you feel any child is in immediate danger, contact local law enforcement.

For more tips on keeping your kids Internet safe, visit www.safekids.ne.gov or www.ago.ne.gov.

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