April 22nd, 2010 / 3 Comments
Last week I met a 7th grade boy who was expelled from school for cyberbullying. He wrote something, must have been a terrorizing something, on Facebook directed at a girl at school.
Honestly, I am shocked! I know about cyberbullying of course. I’ve read a lot about it. I know it’s a big issue. I know it happens.
But now I am seeing it up close for the first time, and it’s the first time I hear of it happening in a school in my city.
The thing that shocks me most is this: the boy I met by all accounts is not on the fringe. He’s a good student, had never gotten into trouble before, comes from an intact home, and a decent boy. I don’t know the details of what he did, nor the circumstances surrounding the incident. But I bet he didn’t know the severe consequences that would ensue from his actions.
I am thinking that our own kids may be like this boy. They are good kids, they don’t have anger issues, and they have a good sense of right and wrong. But perhaps they don’t really know how serious the written word on the internet can be. Maybe they write something off the cuff and think it’s just a joke. I’m sure they’ve seen other comments on Facebook that tease people. They think it’s safe to say on the screen what they would not say in person. They think it’s harmless. Next thing you know, they are in BIG trouble.
Cyberbullying is very serious. It is not just the teasing and the embarrassment. When it is considered harassment, stalking, or threatening with bodily harm, cyberbullying is a crime.
If you’ve never talked to your children about cyberbullying, don’t wait. Here are a few points to start the conversation:
1. What you put on the internet is permanent. You can’t say “I was just kidding.” You can’t take it back. You can’t even delete it – someone may have taken a screenshot and saved it. What goes on the internet is not like a piece of paper that can be burned.
2. What you say could be taken wrongly by different people. You may have an inside joke with your friends, but outsiders may look at it completely differently and consider it hate speech.
3. Use internet correspondence sparingly. If it’s something important, talk in person or on the phone. Don’t go on and on about an issue over the internet. Resolve it and don’t let it get blown out of proportions over the internet.
4. Everything typed is or can be made public. That includes instant messages, emails, Facebook comments, Twitter updates, cellphone texts (think Tiger Woods). You may write it to one person, but the messages can get forwarded. What you said could end up in the wrong hands.
Even if you think your child would not cyberbully someone, I recommend you talk about this with your child. And if you do think your child might be involved in cyberbullying, you will need to take further steps.