By Susie Greer
University of Georgia
Once upon a time, it seemed like the school bully was best known for stealing lunch money and picking on other kids. Today, the news is full of stories about how the modern bully has moved from the lunchroom to the Internet. While the majority of schools now have policies in place about both bullying and technology use in the classroom, bullies who use their home computers may not have the same restrictions.
When a child comes home from school with a black eye, it is easy to see something has happened. It is a bit harder to tell when a bully uses electronic methods to publish hateful messages on social networking sites, impersonate the victim and defame their character, send mean text messages or sign another child up for hundreds of explicit or junk email messages.
To help protect your child from cyber bullies, it is important to monitor your child’s computer use. Know who they are chatting with and what websites they are visiting.
Also keep an eye out for the following signs. Your child may be a victim of bullying if he or she:
- Becomes withdrawn from friends
- Frequently complains of illness to avoid going to school
- Immediately closes or turns off the computer when someone approaches
- Doesn't want to talk about what they are doing on the computer
- Looks angry, upset or depressed after using the computer or a cellular device
- Becomes nervous when an instant message, text message or email arrives
- Suddenly stops using the computer or keeps a mobile device turned off
If you suspect your child has been bullied, open communication and calm reactions are the key to solving many problems. Save and print all messages or web pages that are in question. Teach your child not to respond to the messages and report them to an adult. Consider installing parental control software on your computer to monitor your child's Internet activities and limit their access to inappropriate websites.
If the bullying is of a threatening, harassing, violent or sexual nature or you feel your child's identity has been compromised, contact the school authorities and seek help from law enforcement officials.