Make Cyberbullying a Household Discussion
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I encourage Mississippi residents to openly communicate with their children about the reality and effects of bullying, which often occurs as cyberbullying via cell phones for kids.
Cyberbullying is 24/7, and teens are often victims. Studies show that what teens share on their phones affects their performance in school. Words really do hurt, and cyber bullies hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Words said online versus in a face-to-face confrontation may escalate into isolation at school, truancy and even youth suicide.
Cyberbullying is not an act to be taken lightly, and parents should be aware and conscious of their child’s potential to become a victim. A middle school child is likely to be a cyber bullying victim via cell phones and social media, and older teens may become victims of dating bullying. http://www.wiredsafety.com
It is important for parents to communicate openly about their child’s phone and media usage. Especially targeted attacks from another person or to another person via social media.
Mississippi passed a bullying law which includes cyberbullying on school campuses. Miss. Code Ann., 1972, as amended, 37-11-67. The law defines bullying or harassing behavior on campuses and requires schools to have a bullying policy. Students and teachers with knowledge of bullying to report it to a school official, and retaliation against the reporter is prohibited.
Mississippi cyberstalking laws make it a felony to use the internet or cell phones to threaten bodily harm or to communicate repeatedly in order to threaten terrify or harass a person. In fact, a conviction can lead to a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
Points of discussion to have with children who are at risk of experiencing cyberbullying:
* Your child should communicate to friends or family, that he/she is being bullied.
* Encourage your child to not react impulsively to cyberbullying and to also not delete any of the messages, pictures, texts, etc. which have been sent by the person(s) responsible. These entries may be used as evidence.
* Encourage your child to try to understand that the other person might me experiencing difficulties within his/her own life which is resulting in their reasoning for acting in such a manner. Explain why it is important to not act in such a way to others as well as not to retaliate when such behavior is directed toward him/her.
* Discuss the possible consequences of cyberbullying and how quickly a victim whom has chosen to react similarly could also face disciplinary action as well.
In our continuation efforts of educating our students and parents in Mississippi communities and school districts statewide, we provide anti-cyberbullying presentations for all ages.
Our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force will speak to teachers, parents and schools on bullying; the AG Task Force recently led sessions at the Bullying Solutions Conference for 200 school professionals in Biloxi, and, also, in cooperation with the State Department of Education led a group of Four Hundred student leaders at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum in lively discussion of responsible cell phone etiquette and anti-bullying solutions.