Cyber Bullying Poses Threat to Our Youth

— Written By

One of the gifts that some youth may receive during the holidays may have been a new phone or a laptop. New technology is being created every minute and the Internet is now widely available. Youth in today’s world are exposed to technology—each and every day. While new technology is exciting, a form of bullying behavior is becoming more prevalent in our society. According to the American Justice Department 1 out of every 4 kids will be abused by another youth. 

Some people may not know what cyber bullying is. Cyber bullying, also known as electronic bullying or online social cruelty, is defined as bullying through e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, gaming sites, digital messages, text message or images sent to a cellular phone.

Cyber bullying not only looks and feels a bit different than traditional bullying, but also presents some unique challenges in dealing with it. Young people spend a good portion of their day in school, but the most influential people in their lives are their caregivers; peers are a very close second, but caregivers are still first. Here are some tips of how to stay connected with your child in this ever-changing world filled with technology.            

One way to tackle cyber bullying is to keep the lines of communication open. One bullying prevention expert insightfully described the challenge facing adults who are trying to communicate with young people about technology: “The problem is that adults view the Internet as a mechanism to find information. Young people view the Internet as a place. Parents are encouraged to ask their children where they are going and who they are going with whenever they leave the house. They should take the same approach when their child goes on the Internet—where are they going and who are they with?” 

Secondly, you can develop rules together with your child, think about rules that are acceptable and encourage safe behavior for all the electronic media they use. Also discuss what they should do if they become a victim of cyber bullying (electronic aggression) or they witness or know about another teen being victimized.           

Next explore the Internet. Once you have talked to your child and discovered which Web sites he/she frequents, visit them yourself. This will help you understand where your child has “been” when he/she visits the website and will help you understand the pros and cons of the various Web sites. Remember that most Web sites and online activities are beneficial. They help young people learn new information, interact with and learn about people from diverse backgrounds, and express themselves to others who may have similar thoughts and experiences. Technology is not going away, so forbidding young people to access electronic media may not be a good long-term solution. Together, parents and youth can come up with ways to maximize the benefits of technology and decrease its risks.

Last but not least keep current. Technology changes rapidly, and so it is important to keep current on what new devices and features your child is using, and in what ways. Many developers of new products offer information and classes to keep people aware of advances. Additionally, existing Web sites change, and new Web sites develop all the time, so continually talk with your teen about “where they are going” and explore these Web sites yourself. Your adolescent may also be an important resource for information, and having your teen educate you may help strengthen parent-child communication and bonding, which is important for other adolescent health issues as well. 

If you would like to learn ways to tackle bullying in your classroom or your afterschool program a bullying training will be held on February 25, 2012. The training is based on the Take A Stand! 4-H curriculum. This is a new enrichment curriculum designed to stimulate discussion and engage young people in learning about conflict management, bullying and more. Bullying has been identified as a major concern by schools across the U.S.  Come learn how this hands-on 4-H curriculum can enhance your afterschool program. The training will be held on February 25, 2012 at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension, the registration fee is $25 and you will receive five continuing education units for the five training hours. You can register for the training by going to the North Carolina Afterschool Coalition website www.ncafterschool.org and click on the NCASC training tab.

For more information, contact Kim Reid, Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at (910) 592-7161.