Category: Bullying

Which States Are Doing to Fight Cyberbullying?

Keeping kids safe online while learning

In many ways, the internet is a great learning tool and can be wonderful for connecting children with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, there is also plenty of inappropriate content, and online social networks can give other kids a forum for teasing and bullying.

Currently, there are only a few federal protections to keep minors safe online—the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) being the most prominent.

The good news is, states have the power to rein in bullying and inappropriate interactions that happen in the digital sphere—and several are going above and beyond to keep kids safe online. Here’s a closer look at which states are doing the most to keep their young residents protected while learning on the internet.

States Taking Action

Many states have implemented some combination of laws specifically addressing cyberbullying (at school and otherwise), online harassment, and texting inappropriate content (known as “sexting”). But nine states have doubled down on establishing protections for kids online:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Connecticut
  3. Florida
  4. Georgia
  5. Kansas
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. South Dakota
  8. Texas
  9. Utah

These states have taken clear legislative action against both cyberbullying—bullying, belittling, or harassment that occurs via digital means like social media or texting—and inappropriate texting with minors.

In Arkansas, schools are required to institute and enforce anti-bullying policies. Schools must also offer group conflict resolution services for students and training for teachers to learn how to recognize bullying.

Connecticut is a leader when it comes to cyber-bullying policies and resources for students and teachers. In addition to the laws put in place by Arkansas, Connecticut school districts also have strategies for including parents of both the student who was bullied and the student(s) doing the bullying to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Texas also has a strict policy that covers all these bases, though protections for specific classes aren’t clearly delineated.

The state of Florida includes a process for involving families in cyberbullying situations. It also requires districts to keep a list of programs that can offer training for school staff, parents, and students on how to identify and react to online harassment. Like Texas, specific groups aren’t called out in the laws, but state-funded schools are still held to federal anti-discrimination rules.

While the requirements in Georgia do not include training for school personnel, the state has implemented character education programs for all grade levels and includes off-campus cyberbullying directed toward students or school personnel in their laws and regulations.

Laws in Kansas don’t include off-campus incidents, but they do require training for educators and staff on navigating bullying situations. And Pennsylvania and Utah include everything except offering mental health support for students who have been bullied, even going so far as to require regular policy reviews and to involve families in policy creation, respectively.

South Dakota’s laws focus on responding to bullying as it happens, and while there aren’t plans in place for prevention or family involvement, the state does offer immunity for reporting bullying.

Additionally, all nine of these states have laws that directly address minors sending and receiving inappropriate content via text.

What Can Parents Do?

Regardless of what state you live in, there are some basic precautions you can take to keep kids safe online.

  1. Educate yourself on what dangers are out there and how to identify them.
  2. Figure out where your state stands on online privacy and safety for minors.
  3. Monitor your children when they’re using the internet, keep computers in common rooms, and set up restrictions to keep your kids off message boards, chat rooms, etc. until they’re old enough to engage responsibly.

Last but not least, have a conversation with your children about the importance of being careful with personal information and the potential risks of being online.

Bullying First Aid when you are Bullied

How to Stop Bullies

“You’re stupid, fat and ugly. In hockey that’s called a hat trick.” And the kids around the bully giggle. For a split-second you almost laugh. The insult is kind of funny. Or, it would be if it hadn’t been aimed at you. But the insult is aimed at you. And there you are, verbally slapped.

A mess of ideas run through your head. Run. Cry. Yell an insult back — but you’re flustered and the words stick in your head and mouth.

You need to be prepared to handle the situation at the moment that it happens. You need bullying first aid.

The first rule of bullying first aid is this:

IF YOU ARE ALONE OR AN UNCOMFORTABLE DISTANCE FROM A PUBLIC AREA, DO NOT LASH OUT OR BE INSULTING. SAY SOMETHING SOFT, LIKE “I’M SORRY YOU FEEL THAT WAY,” OR “I GUESS THAT’S YOUR OPINION.” THEN LEAVE. WALK CALMLY, BUT FIRMLY. DON’T TAKE A CHANCE OF BEING INVOLVED IN A PHYSICAL ASSAULT.

That said, if you are close enough to other people or have friends around you, you have options. The best option is a strategy that is both confusing to the bully and takes away all the power of his or her insult: Be nice. Be really, really nice.

Here are some ideas of what you can say:

  1. “That’s pretty funny. Do you have any more lines?”
  2. “You remind me of those comedy roasts. Have you thought of doing comedy?”
  3. “I wish I could stay and hear more, but I have to go. Thanks for the laugh, though.”

Being nice is a great way to show the bully that his or her words don’t have the desired effect. A bully wants you to be scared, cry or show weakness. When you show the bully that the words don’t work on you, he or she has lost.

But you must be careful.

If you see any sign that the bully is so frustrated with your niceness that violence could happen, go back to the first rule and softly excuse yourself.

The key to performing truly effective bullying first aid is to practice.

Enlist your best friend or even a parent or sibling to play the role of the bully. Have that person really get into the role (pretending that they are the villain in a movie). Try different responses.

And most definitely practice the number one rule: IF YOU THINK YOU COULD BE IN PHYSICAL DANGER, GIVE A SOFT RESPONSE AND LEAVE.

Additional Bullying Resources:

 

CyberBullying: A Word for Parents

cyberbullying guide for parents

There was a time when bullying was something we all had to endure in school, on the bus, and hanging out with friends. It was always unpleasant. The next generation, our children, have an even worse type of bullying to deal with… and it’s so much more common than what we suffered!

About CyberBullying

Remember how frustrating it was in school when somebody was upset and reacted passive aggressively, usually by spreading a rumor? How the victim of a bully (maybe it was you, maybe it was one of your friends) would feel singled out, how hard it was to go to school and deal with the drama.

Your children deal with passive aggressive bullying all the time… because the internet brings out the passive aggressive in almost every young person. From shy kids to the straight forward, outspoken kid… cyberbullying can happen by accident. But as you remember about being the victim of a bully… the wounds never heal.

What’s even worse about cyberbullying is this. When a direct conflict among friends is resolved, you can forget and forgive the hurtful things that were said. However, you can never erase them from the internet.

With that in mind, it’s important to be very sensitive when talking about cyberbullying with your child. And yes, if your kid is using the internet than you do need to talk about this!

Teaching Your Child How To Not Be a CyberBully

As mentioned before, the internet brings out certain behaviors in young folk. Of course your child knows not to pick on somebody in person, but do they know not to rant and rave on social media when what they say could unintentionally hurt somebody else?

Watch for passive aggressive behaviors, and teach your children to face their problems (directly) rather than Facebooking them or through any type of social media.

If your child is 13 or younger, you should have their social media log in info, and don’t share the password with your child. This way, you can easily check in on them and you can also protect your child from being the victim of a “hacker” cyberbully by preventing anyone else from finding out how to log into their account.

Cyberbullying is even more common with older teenagers (age 14-18), especially when they have a smartphone that allows them to post on impulse. Teach them to think before they post, and make sure they understand how important it is to never post anything that could hurt somebody else… or could come back to haunt them.

What To Do If Your Child is the Victim of a CyberBully

Be the parent that a child can feel comfortable talking to if they are being harassed or directly attacked online. Be kind and understanding, and be sensitive to their needs. The rest is really up to you, as a parent.

If the harassment is severe enough, you can involve other authorities (the school or the police.) As you may remember, this could backfire on your child so it shouldn’t be your first choice. One needs to evaluate closely determine the immediate and long term effects of the bullying your child is enduring.  If the bullying has started over personal drama, discuss with your child whether or not they should confront the person in real life and come to a resolution. Do not “feed the trolls” or respond to cyberbullying online… bring it back to real world interaction.

To protect your child from becoming the victim of a cyberbully, encourage them to make friends with other children who are kind and respectful. Teach your children that friends who are always “surrounded by drama” can be dangerous… you never know when you’ll get sucked into it!

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyber bully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

CyberBullying: A Word for Kids and Teens

Cyberbullying is a phrase you may hear all the time, but it takes many different forms and meanings. Bullying is something that many children and teens go through in school, on the bus, and within groups of friends. However, cyberbullying is even more common because most kids don’t even realize they are doing it!

It’s never fun to be bullied, in the real world or on the web through social media. It’s even worse to be the bully, yet it’s easy to be do it online… even by accident. The internet can bring out passive aggressive behavior, even in the most outspoken person.

When you have a problem with somebody, do you face them with it… or do you Facebook it?

Taking drama to the web creates a whole new set of problems. Remember that you can work out a problem with a friend, but you can never erase something that was said or done online. So before you post that rant, stop and think if it can hurt somebody else.

Even if you feel like somebody has been mean or unfair to you, you won’t want to stoop to their level.

You won’t be able to take it back, and you will have more good friends when you show that you can take the high road and treat others with respect.

Are You Being CyberBullied?

Think before you tweet, update your status, post a picture, or put anything on the net. Remember that anybody can save and share your updates, so it’s a good idea to avoid posting anything impulsively. It might come back to haunt you. That general rule of thumb is especially important to follow when somebody is attacking or bullying you online.

Sometimes you have to start by asking why somebody is trying to hurt you.

  • If it is a friend who is upset with you, perhaps you did something to hurt them? The best response would be to take your drama offline and try to talk it out—in the real world or on a smart phone. Eliminate the audience and it will be just the two of you, looking for a resolution to end the drama.
  • If there is a group of people you don’t know that well who are “ganging up on you”, they may be the friends of somebody who is upset with you. There could be rumors or numerous direct attacks. Do not respond to any kind of attack coming from somebody you do not know. If you know who the original source is, deal with them directly.

Knowing why does not always put an end to cyberbullying, but neither does “feeding the trolls”. You don’t want to just ignore cyberbullying and wait for it to go away either. So if the harassment is taking on a level that is really troubling you, please tell your parents or somebody in your school.

A Few Steps to Protect Yourself From CyberBullying

  1. Face your problems. Never “Facebook” your problems.
  2. Think before you post.
  3. Always be kind and respectful, and surround yourself with friends who are also kind and respectful.
  4. Be careful around people your age who are always ‘surrounded by drama’. You never know when you’ll get sucked into it!
  5. Never, ever let anybody know your password. Protect your social media accounts from being “hacked” by changing your password every so often. If you use a smart phone never leave it unattended.

What Can You Do if You are Being CyberBullied

  1. Don’t respond to messages and never retaliate. It will only ad fuel to the fire and escalate the cyberbullying.
  2. Tell an adult you trust, such as a parent, teacher or coach. If they don’t offer you any real solutions, then search for a trusted adult who is better equipped to offer advice, such as a school councilor.
  3. Save all evidence. Do not delete any communications. Be sure to keep electronic copies and print-outs in case things escalate. This will empower you to allow justice to be served against the cyberbully.
  4. Keep records of ISP and law enforcement contacts. If the cyberbully continues to harass you, contact their Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  5. Save all information that contains even a hint of a threat and contact law enforcement.
  6. Block the harasser after you have made copies of all communication.

Read how you can stand up against a verbally abusive bully.

Here is an article about CyberBullying written for Parents.