I attended a seminar Tuesday night in Galt about bullying that discussed ways for parents and teachers to deal with it. After a string of highly publicized teen suicides nationwide, it was a very timely subject and one I imagine most parents are interested in.
Cyberbullying was one of the main topics. Liberty High Principal Brian Deis said it has exploded over the last three or four years. Before he said, bullies would write someone's name in a bathroom stall. Now, they post it on Facebook where hundreds of classmates can read it. Or they post a video of a fight on YouTube where thousands of people can view it.
He said parents need to be more aware of what their kids are doing online. He recommends regularly checking text messages, Facebook and MySpace accounts. Most parents pay for a cell phone and Internet for their children, and they should not hesitate to find out what is happening online.
Here's some additional tips to prevent cyberbullying:
• Make an agreement with your children to keep all Internet capable devices out of children's bedrooms.
• Talk regularly with your child about online activities that he or she is involved in.
• Talk specifically about cyberbullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyberbullying, cyberstalking or other illegal or troublesome online behavior. Explain that you will not take away their technology if they confide in you about a problem they are having.
• Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is aware of others who may be the victims of cyberbullying.
• Explain that cyberbullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior. Explain that treating others well online may also protect them from being harassed or cyberbullied.
• Although adults must respect the privacy of children and youth, concerns for your child's safety may sometimes override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that as a responsible parent you may review his or her online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
• Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or monitoring programs, but do not rely solely on these tools.
These tips came from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Stop Bullying Now! website.
Lisa Ford-Berry, whose son committed suicide in 2008 after he was bullied in a Sacramento high school, also started a group called Bullies Really Are Violating Everyone.