Stop Cyberbullying Before It Starts
Today’s teens use technology more than ever. Most have high-speed Internet access, which they use to send instant messages to their friends, create blogs and online videos, keep personal profiles on social networking websites, share photos, and more. Many teens also have cell phones and spend hours text-messaging friends.
Technology, especially the Internet, allows immediate access to information, which can greatly benefit our lives. However, it also has provided some people with the means to exploit the innocent, to commit crimes, and to inflict injury on others. This technology has allowed some teens to take the bullying that thrives in school hallways into cyberspace.
Cyberbullying is using the Internet, cell phones, video game systems, or other technology to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. Consider the following:
- Nearly 20% of teens had a cyberbully pretend to be someone else in order to trick them online, getting them to reveal personal information.
- About 17% of teens were victimized by someone lying about them online.
- About 13% of teens learned that a cyberbully was pretending to be them while communicating with someone else.
- Nearly 10% of teens were victimized because someone posted unflattering pictures of them online, without permission.
Taking Community Action
Cybersafety is an important, but difficult, topic to address because people have the right to privacy and freedom of speech. Community members such as educators, law enforcement officers, and community leaders can help prevent cyberbullying and promote safe and responsible Internet use by implementing the following.
Educators can request that children and youth sign an Internet safety pledge promising that they will not cyberbully or share their personal information. Educators also can establish acceptable Internet use and anti-cyberbullying policies in school; 92% of teens who were cyberbullied knew their victimizers—half of those teens knew the cyberbullies from school. Finally, educators can let parents know that they should establish Internet-use rules for their kids, which should include tangible consequences.
Community leaders can organize a cybersafety forum or community discussion that involves students, parents, educators, local law enforcement officers, city and school officials, and local technology companies. Community leaders can sponsor an Internet-safety awareness day for kids to learn about safe Internet use. They can provide information to parents, educators, and law enforcement officers about how teens use the Internet, what websites teens frequent, how to contact site moderators and Internet service providers if teens are cyberbullied, and when to contact law enforcement regarding a cyberbullying situation. Finally, community leaders can work with school technology departments to make sure that teens are being cybersafe.
National Crime Prevention Council
This site contains cyberbullying and Internet safety information for parents.
Wired Safety provides Internet safety information for children, teens, and adults. Also has an important resource for parents: a downloadable translator for “cyber-lingo” and acronyms used by teens.
Provides relevant cyberbullying prevention and Internet safety information
for parents, teachers, and police officers, as well as children and youth.
Includes information for adults regarding cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying. Also offers information for children ages 10 to 12 regarding bullying.
(Source: US Department of Justice, National Crime Prevention Council, 2012.)