Parents, teachers and care providers of children are likely to be increasingly aware of a term known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has become a comparably common term in the modern press and media, with a number of disturbing cases leading to the suicides of teenagers and children.
Definition. According to Stop Cyberbullying, cyberbullying occurs when a child, preteen or teen is bullied using the Internet, any interactive or digital technology, or a mobile phone. The term bullying covers a broad spectrum of different behaviors and includes harassing, threatening, embarrassing or humiliating somebody. Cyberbullying always involves a minor on both sides. When adults are involved in this kind of problem, it is known as cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.
Scale of the problem. Cyberbullying is seldom a one-time issue. Many children are victims of prolonged, intensive, relentless cyberbullying. Cyberbullying behavior takes many forms and is only limited to the willingness and imagination of the bully, as well as the availability of digital technology. Modern technologies make it much easier for cyberbullies to invade a child's personal space and to remain relatively anonymous. Children and teenagers have killed each other and committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying.
Punishment under law. Cyberbullying can often be difficult to prove, and the perceived risk of making things worse, or not getting support, means that children often decide not to report the issue. This type of behavior can, however, become a misdemeanor charge or could result in a charge of juvenile delinquency. Once a bully's parents become involved, however, things normally do not go this far.
Dealing with cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can be very difficult to stop, and it relies on the willingness of children to report problems. Various programs have been introduced to help this, including school education campaigns and websites for anonymously reporting problems. Outside school, parents can help by ensuring that they encourage children to tell them if they are being bullied in this way, and by ensuring that children understand the implications of their own actions. One method is to teach children to think carefully about what they say and how they say it. Parental support is critical in the success of these campaigns.
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