Parents and kids need to take an active role in combatting both offline and online bullying. Education and open communication are both critical. Parents should know the warning signs that their child may be a victim or victimizing others. If your child is threatened or you fear for their safety, then save the evidence and take it to local law enforcement.
Through the Eyes of Faith:
An expert in the law asked Jesus, "who is my neighbor?" Jesus' response is one we all know well: the parable of the Good Samaritan in which He tells us that our "neighbor" isn't just the person who lives next door to us—it's everyone. Jesus' timeless lessons of love and compassion toward our neighbor should also guide our attitude about bullying. We should avoid attacking, hurting, or embarrassing someone else. We should always think about the consequences of forwarding texts, emails, or videos. But our responsibility doesn't stop there. Loving our online neighbor means reporting injustices and comforting those who are injured—just as the Good Samaritan. Anyone we encounter online is as much a neighbor to us as the injured man was in the parable. The online power each of us has can be just as hurtful as the robbers' blows or as healing as the Samaritan's unconditional love. In our words and actions, may we always exhibit Christ-like love and genuine care for the well-being of others.
In any social environment – offline and online; in the schoolyard and on the Internet – bullying can occur. As digital media is playing an increasing role in teens lives today, some times they find themselves in a bullying situation online. Cyberbullying is bullying using the Internet or digital media. In some ways, it can be worse than traditional bullying because the content remains online, it's able to be spread widely and quickly, and can become invasive.
Cyberbullying most commonly takes the form of someone publicly posting or forwarding private emails, IMs, or text messages. Make no mistake: cyberbullying hurts. It can destroy a child's self-confidence. Through your computer, this menace can come into your home without you even knowing it!
Statistics show that 32% of online teens have experienced some form of harassment and 26% of teens have been harassed through their cell phones.
Because the place where kids are bullied most is at school, many schools have educational programs for parents and kids. Nevertheless, talking to your child about cyberbullying is your responsibility. Don't pass off to your school.
When it happens, bullying affects everyone in the community: the aggressor, the subject, and the bystanders who witness it. The good news is that one of the best ways to stop bullying is by tapping into the power of bystanders to speak up when they see it occur and to create a culture of kindness and bravery where bullying is seen as ‘uncool.'
Cyberbullying can be unsettling. We pray that you and your children are never victimized by it. As parents, you need to be prepared without overreacting. You need to be the trusted place where your kids can go when something goes wrong. If your child is cyberbullied, they may never turn to you if they fear you'll overreact and make things worse.
Together, you and your child can prevent cyberbullying. How should you begin to talk to your kids about cyberbullying? The US Department of Health & Human services and CommonSense Media have some basic advice for parents to follow. We've summarized those points below:
- Be aware of what your kids are doing online: Talk to them about cyberbullying, know the sites they are visiting and have a sense of their online activities. "Friend" and "follow" your kids on social media sites.
- Establish rules about technology use: Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends.
- Understand School Rules: Some schools have developed policies on uses of technology that may affect your child's online behavior in and out of the classroom. Ask your school if they have a policy.
- Teach your kids empathy: Help your children understand another person's perspective and what they may be going through. They may be less likely to bully someone or stand by passively while others are being bullied.
- Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel: Kids' online communication is often purposely ambiguous or cruel, which can lead to misunderstandings. If online drama starts to happen, have your child speak with their friend face-to-face to clear things up.
- Make sure your kids talk to someone (even if it's not you): Talk to your child about who they can turn to when there is trouble brewing. Your parish priest, youth worker, school counselor, teacher, or even the parent of a friend. Kids need a responsible adult they can talk to and to confide in.
- Help your kids be an upstander and not a bystander: Kids may not get involved so that a bully doesn't turn on them. However, there are way to help your child learn to reach out to a victim, get an adult or school involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.
- Show your kids how to stop it: Tell your kids not to respond or retaliate to cyberbullying. Not "feeding" the bully and help stop the cycle. If anything happens, then be sure to save the evidence.
If your child is ever cyberbullied please remember they are a victim. Be supportive of your child. Empathize with your child and model the love and compassion towards them that God himself has shown. On the flip side of things, children who are cyberbullied may sometimes become bullies in retaliation and not even realize it. If your child is threatened or you fear for their safety, then print and save the evidence and take it to local law enforcement. You can also follow the action table at stopbullying.gov for help in your specific situation: http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now
The Role of Bystanders — Creating a Culture Where People Speak Up
One of the best methods to combat bullying, wherever it occurs, is by creating a culture where bullying is uncool. In this spirit, the role of the bystander is clear. Recently, Facebook and Time Warner launched the Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign with a pledge to speak up when adults and teens see bullying occur. Here's what parents pledge:
Bullying is not just "kids being kids". It can have a damaging impact on children, families and communities. As an adult, I know I can help in a few specific ways. Here is my pledge:
- I will speak up — I will take a stand about this issue, even before it touches my friends and family, so everyone knows I take it seriously.
- I will advocate — I will advocate for children, both my own and others, in need of my help. I will support quality bullying prevention training for all school staff so everyone can effectively help our children.
- I will be a role model — I will show kids how to deal with conflicts by setting the standard with my own behavior.
- I will be a partner — I will work with schools, parents, caretakers, coaches, and others working hard to stop bullying - especially if they report my child is involved.
Bullying makes kids want to be invisible. We can show them, through our actions, that we see them, we are listening - and most importantly - they can count on us to make their lives better. Taking this pledge is the first step, so I will forward it to my friends and family to grow a community committed to ending bullying. I will speak up.
We encourage you and your community to take the pledge: www.facebook.com/stopbullyingspeakup.
Many social media services let you report inappropriate, harassing content. On Facebook, for example, nearly every page on the site has a ‘report this' link which gives people the ability to report bullying. The site also has a new feature called ‘Social Reporting' which lets people report harassing content to their friends, family, and community on and off Facebook. You can learn more at facebook.com/report.
Signs your child is being bullied
Bullies and children being bullied oftentimes exhibit certain warning signs. Look for these changes in your child. However, be aware that not all children exhibit warning signs.
Some warning signs that may indicate a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don't ignore the problem.
Signs your child is bullying others:
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don't accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Additional online resources for parents:
Cyberbullying is a big topic. There are several additional resources listed below if you want to become better informed about cyberbullying, how you can prevent it, and action steps to take if your child is ever victimized.
Specialized monitoring software for computers and phones that records activity and can be used to help capture data of cyberbullying incidents.
Managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services this site has a number of resources on cyberbullying, who is at risk, how to respond, and how to get help immediately.
Developed by the folks at wiredsafety.org, the site has age-appropriate info on cyberbullying as well as material for parents, teachers, and law enforcement. The site also features an interactive game to help kids stop cyberbullying.
 Luke 10.25ff
 See Pew Internet & American Life Presentation at: http://www.slideshare.net/PewInternet/cyberbullying-2010-what-the-research-tells-us-4009451
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