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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cyber-Bullying Awareness

1 in 5 kids in the USA have experienced cyber-bullying in some form.  So says a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Cyber-bullying is an ever-growing problem that is becoming more difficult to control.  It occurs in most every form of electronic/digital media that children access today:
  • On the Internet via social networking sites (e.g. Facebook and MySpace), chat rooms, instant messaging, YouTube (a favorite tool of cyber-bullies), websites, and e-mail
  • On video game consoles via online multiplayer games
  • On cell phones via text messaging, instant messaging, and e-mail
The reality is that kids today are near to one or more of these media sources 24/7 and as such, are unable to escape the trauma of being bullied.  When I was a kid, you got bullied by "that kid" on the playground or in your neighborhood but the instances were short lived and when it was over, it was over.  If you got bullied at school, you could go home and be safe, removed from the influence of the bully.  Cyber-bullying is constant - kids can't escape it. It's also permanent.  When a cyber-bully posts something hateful online, it remains until someone removes it.  Go out to YouTube and search for "Star Wars Kid."  Your search will return hundreds of variations of the same video - a video that was supposed to be the private property of one 15 year old boy - a video that was absconded by cyber-bullies who pretended to be the kid's friends and then posted online in an effort to humiliate the kid - a video that was posted over 5 years ago.  The video has collected over 3 million hits since it was posted.  Now imagine if that happened to your child.

Parents need to increase their awareness about cyber-bullying.  Too many parents don't view it as a tangible threat.  During one of my Internet Safety presentations, I had a father say "don't you think you are making too big a deal out of aren't actually hurt by can't punch someone over the Internet."  Really?  Cyber-bullying results in suicide, depression, eating disorders, poor self-image, etc.  Are these not real medical threats?  If your child had these conditions as a result of being cyber-bullied, how would you deal with telling them they are making "too big a deal out of it?"

CNN ran a great article today on cyber-bullying.  You can read it here.  Also, Anderson Cooper, in cooperation with the Cartoon Network, is airing an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 titled "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" tonight (Monday, 10/4) at 10PM EST.  I will definitely be watching it and I would recommend all parents do the same.

CNN just posted another good article (interview with the father of a boy that tried to commit suicide after being cyber-bullied) on the subject.  Read it here. 

Yet another great article from CNN on this topic.  Read it here.

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