BBB Advice on Internet Safety: How to protect your child from cyber-bullying

July 06, 2008

Has your child been a victim of cyber bullying?

The Better Business Bureau advises that the rapid rise of cyber bullying -- where children (and sometimes adults) embarrass, harass, threaten or even stalk their victims using the Internet, text messaging and cell phones -- should not be taken lightly.

An i-SAFE survey of 1,500 students in grades four through eight found:
• 42 percent of children have been bullied while online.
• More than one-third of kids have been threatened online.
• Nearly one-fourth of those surveyed had received at least one threatening e-mail or other type of message.
• Nearly 60 percent of children reported getting hurtful communications in the past.
• 58 percent of respondents never told their parents about what had happened.

To protect your children online, your BBB recommends:
1. Discuss the issue of cyber bullies with your kids and provide simple ground rules for what information they can post in e-mails and on the Web, and what information should stay private. Tell them to inform you of any threatening, vicious or suspicious communications.
2. Explain to your kids that you expect them to treat others with respect and kindness and that you won't tolerate them becoming bullies. Also stress that they should avoid responding to threats and hostility with counter-threats and more hostility. Often, this just escalates the situation.
3. When a cyber bully is identified, file a formal complaint with the perpetrator's cell phone company or Internet Service Provider.
4. Report cyber bullying to school authorities or law enforcement if cyber bullying includes threats of violence or predatory sexual behavior.
5. Ask your child to save and print any evidence of cyber bullying, including e-mails, bulletin board postings, instant messages, etc. Be sure that he or she also documents the relevant dates and times of the incidents.
6. Take your children's complaints seriously. If you notice that your child has recently become withdrawn or morose, or has lost interest in activities she used to enjoy, these may be warning signs that she's being victimized by a cyber bully.