Cyber Bullying Information and Tips for Parents & Guardians

  • The New York State Dignity for All Students Act requires all school personnel to maintain a school environment free of discrimination and harassment of students. Cyber bullying is a form of harassment that has received increased attention due to increased usage of social media by students and a greater awareness of the harm that results from bullying incidents.

    Information About Cyber Bullying

    Cyber bullying is a form of harassment that can affect students both in school and away from school. Cyber bullying is defined as the use of information technology devices, such as computers and cell phones to intentionally intimidate, harass, annoy, threaten, embarrass or otherwise cause harm to individuals targeted for abuse.

    Cyber bullying can be even more destructive than traditional in-person bullying. For example, harmful posts can quickly become “viral” online, meaning that they can rapidly become very public in nature and be easily passed on to many people. This often results in personal public shaming for the victim, as victims are often students who face increased fear or embarrassment when they return to school. Cyber bullies often target those who they view as weak, vulnerable or different in some way.

    Cyber bullying is abusive and harmful for victims in numerous different ways. Bullying in all of its forms dehumanizes the target, making them feel and appear as though they do not matter, or are less worthy than their tormentors. The impact can be very damaging and include depression, fear, loneliness, embarrassment, and emotional pain. Cyber bullying can happen through direct threats or insults via text messages or online posts, online comments that hurt one’s reputation, or through spreading rumors to name a few. Many students now possess mobile phones that are equipped with social media applications that provide avenues to quickly send or post messages that are intended to hurt others. When cyber bullying interferes with a student’s education or ability to participate fully in school life, schools have a responsibility to do all they legally can to resolve the problem.

    How Communicating Online is Different

    While talking face-to face, there are cues that can be seen and heard that help participants better understand the messages. While online, or with other digital communication, these cues are absent making messages more difficult to understand. In addition, people are more likely to say or do certain things online that they would not do in person because they feel less self aware, and more anonymous. It is easier to say or post something online that would not be done in person because there is no immediate reaction and feedback. Therefore it may be easier to cyber bully someone when students don’t see the harm they are causing.

    Students Often do not Report Cyber Bullying

    Like traditional bullying, the majority of cyber bullying victims and bystanders do not report to adults. Students often don’t report to adults because they are afraid. They are afraid that the cyber bullying will get worse, afraid of being considered a “snitch” by their peers, or afraid that the access to technology will be taken away. Young people often do not trust that adults will, or are able to, help.

    What you can do to Help

    Be aware that young people need to be taught how to use technology safely, ethically and responsibly. This starts at home, and should continue with a partnership with schools. Parents need to stay current and use the technology themselves to gain valuable experience, and also communicate with their kids and stay involved. Adults need to build trust with young people in order to change the belief that “adults will only make it worse.” Important research has shown that young people, when reporting bullying to adults, want them to listen, give advice, and check in to ensure that the bullying has stopped. Therefore if they have the courage to report to you, handle with care and do not over-react. Ask them how you can help them solve the problem—together.

    Some key messages to relay to your kids:

    • Cyber bullying affects real lives—
      what happens in the cyber world impacts real people in the real world.

    • Remember "P4":
      Pause and Ponder
      (ask will this hurt me or hurt others?) Prior to Posting!"
      Once posted, it’s hard to take back.

    What to do if your child is a victim of cyber bullying:

    • Do not respond to the bully;
    • Save the evidence (save or print);
    • Block the bully using online tools, or report it to those who may help (school, Internet/Cell provider, police).

    Parents are encouraged to contact your school’s Administrator or Dignity Act Coordinator if you have any concern that your student may be the victim or perpetrator of cyber bullying.

Cyber Awareness Files