Protecting Children From Cyber-Bullying

BCTV Global Noon News, November 2003

(Notes from an interview with Saleema Noon on BCTV Global Noon News, November 2003)

Since our segment last week on Instant Messaging I have received several requests from parents for tips and resources to deal with this new phenomenon we call “cyber-bullying”. Simply put, cyber-bullying occurs when electronic technologies such as IM, e-mail, chat rooms, cell phones and text messaging (STM) are used to intimidate, harass or antagonize others. And it happens more than we’d like to think—in their 2001 study, Media Awareness Network found that 25% of young Canadian Internet users say that someone has emailed them material that said hateful things about others.


Here’s how parents can be proactive and preventative in dealing with cyber-bullying:

  • Learn everything you can about the Internet and what your kids are doing on line.
  • Encourage your kids to come to you if anybody says or does something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Remember not to freak out, because then your kids may not turn to you next time they need help.
  • Encourage ethical and responsible Internet use. Help them to develop their own moral code and create an online agreement. This should include never saying anything on the Internet that they wouldn’t want the whole world to read. Media Awareness Network’s research shows that in homes where parents have clear rules against certain kinds of activities, young people are much less likely to engage in them.

Look for signs that your child may be being cyber-bullied. These may include:

  • Long hours spent on the computer
  • Closing of windows when an adult enters the room
  • Physical ailments or acting out
  • Sudden disinterest in the computer
  • Not wanting to/fear of going to school
  • Report cyber-bullying to teachers, school administrators and other parents for help in resolving the situation.

What parents can teach their kids:

  • Of course, don’t give out personal information.
  • If you are being harassed, leave the area (chat room) or stop the activity (IM). Report this immediately to an adult—you are not alone! If the bullying includes physical threats, tell the police as well.
  • Know how to block the sender’s messages.
  • Save any harassing messages (as evidence) and forward them to your Internet Service Provider (most have policies restricting harassment). DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM. Online bullies are just like off-line ones—they WANT you to answer and give them a reaction so they feel powerful.
  • Don’t send a message to someone when you are angry. It is very difficult to undo the damage of saying something cruel or that you didn’t mean.
  • Take a stand against cyber-bullying with your peers. Speak out whenever you see someone being mean to another person online. Most kids respond better to criticism from their peers than disapproval from adults.

Resources for Parents