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Cyber Security Awareness Month - Day 13 - Online Bullying

Published: 2010-10-13
Last Updated: 2010-10-14 13:51:38 UTC
by Deborah Hale (Version: 3)
8 comment(s)

Cyber Bullying/Harassment

The Internet is an amazing tool; it is full of valuable information and resources. However, just like any other tool, it is very dangerous if not properly used.

Among the dangers that await children is Cyber Bullying/Harassment. Chat rooms, profile rooms (such as myspace.com) and gaming rooms are among the most dangerous. These sites are not continuously monitored and have become an avenue for many types of bullying/hate speech. According to www.websafety4kids.org, 1 in 17 children have reported being threatened or harassed while online via email, IM or chat rooms. This accounts for an estimated 18% of actual abuse taking place.

There are many statistics available at netsmartz.org and websafety4kids.org as well as other sites. These statistics indicate that the most likely victim of cyberbullying are young people age 10 to 14. In reality we just don’t know the extent of abuse. Much of this type of activity goes unreported. Many times children and teens are afraid to talk to a parent, teacher or other adult for fear they will lose their privileges to use the Internet or they fear other types of reprimand.

With the increase in Cell Phones with data connections we have seen additional problems. We now have bullying going on with text messaging as well.  With a computer connection kids may be a little more cautious about what they do because there is a chance that mom and dad may come across information on the computer.  With a cell phone unless mom and dad get ahold of the cell phone, they have no idea what is going on.  Many of the data phones now make Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites as easy to use on the phone as it is on the computer.  Many young people also wrongly believe that it is harder to track things done on a cell phone than on the computer.  Now we add to the mixture IPods, IPads, etc and we have even more avenues for possible attack.  

Many young people everyday receive threatening, harassing or vicious communications while using these devices. Many go unreported.  The sad reality is by the time we identify that a child is a victim it may be too late.  We hear stories on a regular basis about young people who are being bullied.  Many of these stories end with the suicide. As in the cause of Ryan Patrick Halligan http://www.ryanpatrickhalligan.com/.  I first heard of Ryan's story through the information that I received from I-Safe.  I have watched the video many times and each time it tears my heart out.  Ryan is just one of hundreds of children that chose that end.  

I am a volunteer for Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC).  As a volunteer I visit schools in our area and talk to kids about Cyber Safety - about Cyber Bullying.  I always try to emphasis that this is a very serious problem, a very serious issue.  I assure the kids that there are people like me who will listen, who do care.  I also assure them that this too will pass.  At the end of the presentation on Bullying I ask the kids to close their eyes.  I walk them through their life, graduation day - the empty seat next to them that should have been occupied by Ryan or one of the other hundreds that have taken their own life. I ask them to fast forward 25 years -  their child is in school and is being bullied, fast forward 40 years, their grandchild in school being bullied. I ask them to try to imagine how these things feel. I ask them to think about Ryan and all of the other children, think about their future and how they would feel if it were them that caused this pain.  I receive feedback from teachers, parents and students that this walk through time has had a tremendous impact on some of the kids.  They say that the next in class a lot of the kids want to talk about what they have heard. As I tell them and I truly mean it.... If I can save just one child....  just one Ryan I will feel as though I have accomplished something.

The Internet is a tremendous place, full of knowledge and adventure. It is a wide open, vast array of information, both good and bad. It is a place that can hold the key to education or the key to tragedy. There are no borders on the Internet, no boundaries. It is just as easy and fast to get to your local television station web site as it is to get to Korea, Japan, Germany or Russia.

It is important that we encourage our children, young people and teens to use this tool. However, we as adults need to become more diligent in monitoring and guiding the use of the Internet.

This education must start early. We need to talk to our children about the things that they see, the dangers that exist, and what they need to do to protect themselves from the Bullies.

For more information see:
www.netsmartz.org
www.websafety4kids.org
www.missingkids.com
www.isafe.org
www.onguardonline.gov/
 

 

Let us hear from you.  Do you have any tips?  Any good informational websites that you would like to share?  Let us know.

 

Deb Hale Long Lines, LLC

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