With school just getting back into session most parents will, at some level, worry a bit about their child’s well being as it relates to his or her new classmates. No matter what school district your child is in, there always seems to be at least one troublemaker who causes them great anxiety through aggressive behavior.
Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans
The Centers for Disease Control recently released a report that indicates as many as one-third of kids have experienced some form of “electronic aggression.” This form of bullying can come from many sources, such as text or instant messages, emails, postings on websites or blogs, and can take various forms, such as spreading rumors, telling lies, or making threats.
While face-to-face bullying may pose a more real potential threat of physical harm, the effects of cyber bullying are more psychological.
Think about it: unlike traditional bullying, cyber bullying can be done without the bully revealing his or her identity. They can hide behind screen names and other forms of cover (making them even more cowardly), but to a child, the threat feels just as real. The effect on the victim can be more intense because he or she might not even know who the source of the threats is. “Is it the kid who sits behind me in class and kicks my chair? Is it the kid I laughed about when he got the teacher’s question wrong? Or is it someone I’m not even thinking about?”
Not knowing the source of threats, lies or rumors can leave a child feeling extremely vulnerable and helpless to respond, which compounds their anxiety and can lead to poor performance in school or to his or her own forms of acting out, such as turning to drugs or alcohol.
As a parent, you can help protect your child by looking out for potential warning signs that your child may be a victim of cyber bullying, or other forms of aggression:
• Secretive. A child who is experiencing bullying is likely to withdraw out of fear and anxiety. If you ask her how her day was at school, but she seems reluctant to talk about her day, or, specifically, her classmates, there may be a problem.
• Poor Grades. If fear takes hold, your child won’t be able to concentrate on his studies.
• Withdrawn. If her fears are acute, your child may begin to withdraw in other areas of life, such as staying in her room during family gatherings, not participating in extra curricular activities or just being “lost in thought.”
There are several things you can do to help prevent your child from becoming a victim of cyber bullying:
• Communication. Absolutely nothing can beat open and honest conversation with your child. If he trusts you, he can confide in you, which will lower his anxiety. Let them know that you will not make them feel foolish for being fearful, but that you will support them.
• Monitoring. Make it a condition of your child’s use of technology that you have access to it. That includes passwords for email accounts and Myspace pages, as well as the ability to check their cell phone/text messaging activity.
• More Monitoring. Through my office, I offer a free parental monitoring software disk for home or laptop computers called Computer Cop. This disk will allow you to scan your computer to text and images that may be potentially harmful to your child.
To read the full report on cyber bullying from the CDC, or to find out how to obtain a copy of my Computer Cop CD, visit the Sheriff’s Office website at waynecounty.com/sheriff.
The writer is sheriff of Wayne County.