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Stopping cyberbullies

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Texting, social media have become new tools for harassment

By The Staff

You probably know a parent who has said, "My child would never do something like that."

You may even be one of those parents.

Either way, they (or you) are wrong.

Kids, all kids, are capable of doing the wrong thing. We don't say this to be critical of kids, but rather to acknowledge what kids will do. If you doubt this, think about every wrong you or someone you knew did when you were growing up.

Now, think about the things you thought of doing but didn't actually do. Why not? Because you'd been taught it was wrong? Because you thought you'd get caught? Or, maybe because you knew if you got caught, you'd really get it when you got home.

Without guidance, without supervision, kids will push the limits, and at many times, for many kids, the Internet is a place they can go without guidance or supervision.

It's also opened the door for a type of bullying that many of today's parents did not experience - cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is electronic communication that causes another person to suffer fear of physical harm, intimidation, humiliation or embarrassment. In Kentucky, this kind of language can be found in KRS 525.080, the statute that defines harassing communication, which is considered a Class B misdemeanor.

Anyone who thinks this isn't going on in Marion County schools is in denial.

The relatively small group of parents who attended a session about cyberbullying at Lebanon Middle School last week know firsthand that bullying is a reality, and that some of that bullying comes in the form of text messages, facebook posts, even Youtube videos.

Sadly, we are all familiar with news stories about students who have committed suicide in response to cyberbullying.

Hannah Coyt, the presenter at last week's presentation, offered a few tips to help with cyberbullying, both by and against your children.

If you have a computer in your home, it needs to be in an area where it is visible while it is in use. Parents need to know what their children are doing and who they may be communicating with online. This includes knowing your children's online passwords.

Unfortunately, some parents either won't acknowledge or don't want to know when their kids are doing something wrong. Last week, parents shared some examples of incidents in which they contacted other parents, only to be met with denial or dismissal of their concerns.

The issue is more complex than we can address in this space, but we encourage every parent to take time to educate themselves about this issue.

If you did not attend last week's meeting - indeed, especially if you did not attend last week's meeting - it's worth your time to visit a website like www.stopcyberbullying.org to learn what cyberbullying is and to learn ways to help prevent it, both by and against your children.

 People often want the schools to get involved, but in most cases, this happens outside of school, although it can affect students no matter where they are. Stopping cyberbullies starts at home, and that means parents must get involved.