How to deal with online "cyber bullies"

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cyber-bullyingEmboldened by anonymity, some adolescents are engaging in cyber bullying and are using e-mail, instant messengers, and social media sites like Facebook to send vicious threats and spread nasty gossip.

Unlike bullying in school, cyber bullying continues 24/7 and allows school year rivalries to simmer through the summer. Both boys and girls are targets of cyber bullying, though girls are often more devastated by the put-downs, rumors and sexual slurs.

At first glance, it may seem to adults that the solution is as simple as closing a window. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. For teens who are unsure about themselves and their place in their peer group, knowing that someone is posting lies about them can be genuinely traumatic, especially when the rumors spill into real life.

For all these reasons, parents need to bullyproof their kids by helping them recognize and respond appropriately to intimidation — both on and off-line. Here are some tips for dealing with cyber bullies:

  1. Make a distinction between teasing, which is part of normal friendship, and bullying, which is not. Teasing is reciprocal and stops when one person gets upset. In bullying, the same person is always the victim and the bully takes pleasure in his or her distress.
  2. Determine whether your child knows the person in real life. If you decide your children are mature enough to use sites where interaction with strangers occurs (such as chatrooms), warn them that some people get their kicks by “flaming” other people. These abusive messages are meant to provoke a response, so the best way to thwart the sender is to ignore them and either leave the website or carry on as if the person isn’t there. If the bully sends harassing e-mail, messages from that address should be blocked. (To find out how to block an e-mail message, check the help section of your ISP’s web site.)

Read on for tips to combat cyber bullying

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