Here is some advice from an internationally acclaimed expert in the area: Professor Sheri Bauman, from the University of Arizona.
She writes: As technological devices have become more widely available, misuse of the devices has become a problem affecting young people. Cyber bullying refers to behaviours that are intended to harm others using technology, by hurting their feelings, causing embarrassment or humiliation, damaging reputations, and disrupting relationships. Some acts that appear to be cyber bullying may originate because of misinterpretation, miscommunication, or misguided attempts at humour. We know that cyber bullying is less prevalent than traditional bullying, but has many of the same consequences: depression, anxiety, absenteeism, reduced concentration at school, increased risk for suicidal behaviours etc.
Although traditional bullying has occurred for eons, cyber bullying has the potential to be more harmful because of its unique characteristics:
- it can be anonymous and can happen at any time in any place
- the audience is enormous
- the perpetrator does not see the immediate reaction of the target
- there are no non-verbal cues to help convey meaning
- content once posted is permanent
- one does not need power in the "real world" to exercise power using technology
What schools can do
- Teach digital safety skills and digital citizenship skills to students starting at primary school.
- Have clear policies prohibiting cyber bullying.
- Raise awareness through information campaigns, public service announcements, etc.
- Intervene when cyber bullying that has originated off-campus interferes with students' ability to learn at school.
- Train all school personnel on cyber bullying.
- Provide training for parents
- Have a mechanism for anonymous reporting of cyber bullying by students and parents.
How parents can help
- Do not threaten to take away take technological devices if cyber bullying occurs
- Teach your child how to create secure passwords
- Know the websites your child visits and help the child set privacy and security settings properly
- Teach your child not to provide personal information on any website
- Check history on computers used by your child to know what he/she is doing online
- Check or request records from cell phones
- Do not allow your child to have technology accessible 24 hours/per day.
e.g. mobile phones can be left in a charger in a public room; laptops are not in bedroom all night.
If your child is targeted:
Note if any of the technical information given above is difficult to understand, please seek clarification from your child's school.
- Preserve evidence! Take screen shots, print full email headers, save texts, etc.
- Report incidents to website owner, internet service providers.
- Tell the school about it. Even if the sender is unknown, the likelihood is that the offender is also bullying the target at school - and may be identified.
- Use "report offensive content" options when necessary.
- Block sender or ?de-friend' offender.
- If what has happened is illegal, report it to the authorities.
- Tell the offender that you do not want to receive any further communications from him/her, and save that statement as evidence.
- If someone creates a website to demean you, use whois.com to find the person who set up the site. Either report or contact that person, depending on the content of the site.
Some useful references:
Bauman, S. (2011). Cyberbullying: What counselors need to know. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
HInduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2012). School Climate 2.0: Preventing cyberbullying and sexting one classroom at a time. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ivester, M. (2011). Iol ... OMG! What every student needs to know about online reputation management, digital citizenship and cyberbullying. Reno, NV: Sierra Knight Publishing.
Vender Veer, I. A. (2008). Facebook: The missing manual. Canada: O'Reilly Media.
Some useful websites: