By Dr. Michele Borba, Real Parenting Solutions
This week, yet another teen suicide-- we learned of yet another horrific youth tragedy that appeared to be prompted by relentless online bullying by peers. Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year-old Massachusetts high school student, committed suicide. South Hadley High Principal Daniel Smith called Prince "smart, charming, and as is the case with many teenagers, complicated ..." We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life," Boston.com reported. But we do have one clue:friends and school officials confirmed that she had been taunted by peers via text messages, Facebook and other social networking sites since moving from Ireland last year.
Even after this young girl's death, bullies posted vile messages on her Facebook memorial page. Those comments had to be removed from the page. Two students from her high school have been suspended and an investigation is underway.
Horrific. Sad. Heart-wrenching. There really are no adequate descriptors. But this is not the only such tragedy. We've read of too many of our children who have ended their young lives due to vicious online (yes, and offline) peer cruelty. And cold-blooded cruelty is the perfect descriptor for this digital age behavior problem called cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
So we're clear, cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology or digital media to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor. Every adult who interacts with kids-parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers-must get educated about this lethal new form bullying so you can find ways to stop this.
One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it's just so much easier to be cruel when you don't have to do lash out your vicious insinuations face to face! Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, we now need to shield kids from one another.
Cyber-bullying is real. Incidents are happening at an increasing rate. National surveys by online safety expert, Parry Aftab, estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying; 53 percent say they have been bullied online.
Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so than traditional bullying. If you have any doubt, just look at the precious face of Phoebe Prince! Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.
One survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet; 41 percent of our kids say they don't share with us what they do or where they go online.
9 Possible Signs and Symptoms of Cyberbullying To Look for In Your Children
Research also says that chances are that your child will not tell you he is harassed online. As our children get older studies also show the likelihood declines even more. One big reason: our kids say we did not listen or believe them when they did come and tell us. So get educated. Tune into your children closer. Look for these possible signs of cyber bullying though there are others. And if they are not due to cyberbullying they clearly warrant looking into. Something is amiss with your child!
- Hesitant to be online; nervous when an Instant Message, text message or Email appears
- Visibly upset after using the computer or cell phone or suddenly avoids it
- Hides or clears the computer screen or closes cellphone when you enter
- Spends unusually and longer hours online in a more tense pensive tone
- Withdraws from friends, falls behind in schoolwork's or wants to avoid school
- Suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, marked change in personality or behavior
- Trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, excessively moody or crying, seems depressed
- Suspicious phone calls, e-mails and packages arrives at your home
- Possible drop in academic performance
CLICK HERE for more information on what to do if you see any of the signs and how to talk to your kids
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