Back to School and Cyberbullying

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Safety Tips to Protect Your Children


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Bullying has been a problem in schools for many years, and with the new integration of technology at home and in the classrooms it has taken on a new form: Cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying occurs when children use technology such as cell phones and the Internet, to send hurtful – and sometimes anonymous – messages to other children. Unfortunately, cyberbullies don’t stop there. They can go as far as impersonating your child on a social site such as Facebook or Twitter, and send incriminating messages.

i-SAFE America states how 58 percent of children admitted to having experienced some form of cyberbullying. Dr. Sara Rivero-Conil, a psychologist at Miami’s Children’s Hospital’s Division of Psychology states how cyberbullying is a serious concern, “[Bullying] isn’t limited to school anymore. It can essentially happen 24 hours a day, which can make those who are being severely cyberbullied feel like there is no escape.”

According to Dr. Rivero-Conil the constant abuse can result in your child suffering from anxiety and/or depression.  In extreme circumstances, children have taken their lives due to cyberbullying. This was the case for 15-year-old child from Cape Coral, Florida who took his life after being cyberbullied by classmates for two years.  Because of his story, new laws were adopted in Florida that would penalize schools that don’t comply with anti-bullying policies. Although this is an improvement, many children still fall victim to bullying.

How can you tell if your child is being cyberbullied?

As Dr. Rivero-Conil suggests, keeping the lines of communication open with your child is very important. Make sure to keep an eye on eating and sleeping habits, as well as grades in school. She says, “If your child arrives from school looking disheveled or missing items that they had taken to school, be sure to check in with him/her. It’s also important to remind your child that the bullying is not his or her fault.”

How can you protect your child from cyberbullies?

If you see any signs your child may be a victim of cyberbullying, it’s important to talk to him/her. Make sure he or she is not sharing personal information, especially passwords with anyone, even friends. Dr. Rivero- Conil explains, “It’s also important that they realize the Internet is a very public space, e-mail messages, IM conversations and photos can all be copied, printed and forwarded, so they should be mindful of how they portray themselves online. Keeping the computer in a public place and limiting the time your children spend on non-school-related activities online may also help you be aware of what’s going on in your child’s online world.” Most importantly, added Dr. Rivero-Conil, “If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Encourage your children not to open messages from bullies, and they definitely should not hesitate to block someone’s online profile if they are feeling harassed.”

But what happens if your child is the bully?

The thought of your child being the bully can be very upsetting. Sadly, this may be possible. In a study conducted by iSafe America, 54 percent of children admitted to being mean to someone over the Internet. Although this can definitely be very upsetting, it’s important to teach your children the correct behavior on the Internet, as well as making them understand the power of words, and how damaging they can be.

Dr. Rivero-Conil states, “monitor your child’s online activity and take the opportunity to educate your child on appropriate forms of communication should you see that they are bullying or being mean to another child. Bullying in general is often a way of acting out because of underlying problems,” noted Dr. Rivero-Conil. “If you feel your child may be dealing with feelings of anger, hurt or frustration, having them talk to a professional counselor can often help them learn to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner.”


Written by: Miami’s Children Hospital