Mental Health Matters: Cyber-bullying is the most insidious of all

With the explosion of electronic gadgetry in the last few years, combined with a number of different ways to use it, teens and youths are connected through cyberspace at all hours of the day and night.

The bully that once lay in wait for victims in the schoolyard or on the trek home can now ply their cowardly tactics in secrecy and anonymity.

Instead of an audience of a dozen or so, young people can find themselves humiliated in front of hundreds, thousand — or more.

Cyber-bullying is much more difficult to deal with.

Up to one-third of teens surveyed participated in cyber-bullying — teens who would never consider bullying in person.

Cyber-bullying means using computers, cellphones and other technology to hurt, scare or embarrass other people. It can get people in serious trouble at school and also with the law.

According to the experts, here are a few tips to help you with your teen:

• Create and talk about the consequences you will impose if your child cyber-bullies: At the very least, insist your child takes responsibility with an apology and amends, loss of technology privileges and research on the harm done by cyber-bullies.

• Have clear rules for using technology: Ensure they know the expectation to treat others with respect continues with online communication, as well as in person. Like any other privilege, your child’s access to the Internet should be subject to their ability to use it safely and well.

In order to protect their child or others, most parents would have no difficulty removing the car from a teen’s use for a period of time — and cellphones and computers should be treated the same.

• Make sure you talk to your older children and teens about the harm cyber bullying can do. Find out what they already know and if it has ever happened to them or someone they know.

If they receive a bullying or demeaning message or post, do not delete it and encourage your teen to show it to you.

• Teach them to be careful about the use of personal information when online: Do not allow your children to post personal information or photos in an on-line friend’s community, chat group or anywhere else.

• Provide support if a child is cyber-bullied and teach them how to speak up about any they know about.

If your child is the victim of cyber-bullying, you can take action to correct the problem with school authorities, your Internet provider, mobile-phone company, the social-media company and, if necessary, the police.

• Remain aware and involved with what your child is doing when on-line: Chances are, you have or continue to pay for the Internet account, the cellphone they use and the texts they send.

That, in addition to the fact you are legally responsible for them, gives you the right and the duty to check in and check up on the things they do that have potential harmful consequences — and this includes cyber space.

None of these steps are possible unless you develop a close and trusting relationship with your teen.

It may seem contradictory to build trust while at the same time sticking your nose into their online activities,  yet that can actually build trust if it is done appropriately and sensitively.

Nothing that is worthwhile is ever easy — and neither is this.

At the CMHA’s teen clubhouse, we have a bank of computers for teens to use and the balance between supervising their activities and giving them privacy is a delicate one.

Yet this is a noble, worthwhile struggle because the powerful good of the Internet age has powerful dangers as well.

Until next time, keep sending to your suggestions and comments to Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca.



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