Avoiding Cyber Bullying


Q: We have just given our middle-school-age daughter permission to be on Facebook. How can we make sure that she uses it appropriately, and how can we help her avoid being bullied online?
– No Cybersurfers

A: Just about every high-school student in the country is on Facebook, and the number of elementary- and middle-schoolers using it is rapidly increasing. The time to talk with your child about being on Facebook safely is before she actually creates a profile page. A good place to start is by visiting the safety information site on Facebook (www.facebook.com/help/?safety). Read this information together. Be sure that your child understands the consequences of using Facebook inappropriately. It can be very dangerous. You may wish to ask her if you can visit her page at any time to evaluate the content she is posting and receiving.

An unfortunate aspect of the online experience is cyberbullying. The estimated number of children who have been ridiculed or threatened through computer messages ranges from 1 in 3 to 1 in 10. Whatever the true extent of cyberbullying is, it certainly means that you should talk to your daughter about it. Some children are able to shrug it off, while others have been completely unable to handle bullying.

Teens are old enough and smart enough to carefully consider their online actions. Judge Thomas Jacobs has written a book, "Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?," that you may want your older children to read. It spells out exactly when teens' actions cross the line or become illegal activity and gives them a chance to think about ethical issues while reading actual cases.

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