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Education Matters: Helping to dissolve cyber bullying

September 01, 2011|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

The California Legislature recently passed Assembly Bill 746, making posts on social networks for the purpose of bullying grounds for suspension or expulsion from school.

A few years back, I wrote about this issue in the aftermath of a student suicide in our district that was linked to a cyber bullying incident. The problem has not gone away.

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By definition, “cyber bullying” is any electronic communication, phone or Internet, that threatens or demeans another. Parents across the country are fretting more about protecting their kids on Facebook, but many of the products that aim to help are intrusive, and inject the parents into the child’s online social life in a way that’s awkward for both.

Research on this topic reveals some alarming statistics.

A 2010 report claims that 21% of kids have been cyber bullied at least once in their lives: that's one out of every five kids. Methods used include nasty or hurtful comments, circulating rumors, making threats, and posting malicious or hurtful pictures.

The effects of cyber bullying include lowered self-esteem, anxiety when in locations where offenders are found (i.e. school), and sadly, even suicide. Parents of children victimized by cyber bullying may wonder what can be done. A good place to start is by becoming aware of state laws regarding cyber bullying.

A complete list of state laws can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures' website at: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=13495

A better place to start is to have a positive and open relationship with your child and to encourage him or her to speak with you if they are being bullied. Teens, always wanting to assert their autonomy, are least prone to speaking about the subject. Sometimes the last thing they want is to feel like a little child still in need of the protective embrace of their parents.

My research on the subject brought me to a software application called ZoneAlarm SocialGuard, which seems to strike a good balance between safety and privacy, between a parent’s peace of mind and a teen’s sense of freedom.

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