Holding Teens Responsible for Cyber-Bullying

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The use of technology to engage in bullying behavior – known as cyberbullying – can have a devastating impact on the victim. Serious effects may ensue from this technological abuse, including a drop in self-esteem, withdrawal and isolation, grades dropping and physical health problems, according to the Stop Bullying.gov website, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To resolve a cyber-bullying situation, it’s imperative to hold the cyberbully accountable for the abusive behavior.

Zero-Tolerance

  • If you learn that your child is involved in cyberbullying behavior, have a direct and serious conversation with your teen as soon as possible. Communicate a zero-tolerance policy for cyberbullying behavior with your child, advises the American Humane Association. Expound on the reasons for not tolerating cyberbullying, including the hurt and pain it inflicts on others as well as potential legal consequences, both criminally and civilly. Explain to your child that in some states, both parents and children are held responsible for cyberbullying incidents, states a report published by the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Teaching Empathy

  • Due to the anonymity afforded to people on the Internet, it’s common for adolescents to engage in harmful or hurtful behavior toward other people without a full understanding of the impact of their actions, advises the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children's Bullying Prevention website. Talk about empathy with your child to help your child understand the value of considering other people’s thoughts and feelings. Discuss how a hurtful action on the Internet can harm someone else, but due to the physical isolation, the pain can remain unnoticed and unseen by the person who inflicts it. Encourage your child to consider how she would feel as a victim of cyberbullying.

Making Amends

  • Discuss making amends with your child to repair the harm inflicted on victims. Encourage your child to apologize directly to victims. Encourage your child to delete the hurtful material and make a public statement online to retract whatever harmful rumor or statement your child placed online. Explain to your child that even with the deletion of the material, however, it’s impossible to erase it completely from the Internet.

Legal Consequences

  • The parents of a cyberbullying victim may have the right to bring civil litigation against a cyberbully and her parents for wrongdoing, depending on the jurisdiction, according to the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. The parents may be found negligent for not providing reasonable supervision of the minor child. In addition, criminal charges could also ensue for both parents and teen, depending on the severity of the incident.

Moving Forward

  • Institute closer supervision of your child’s online activities after a cyberbullying incident. Move the computer to a common area of the home and monitor your child’s activities. Require your child to give you login credentials to online accounts to enable you to supervise activities. If you discern that your child’s cyberbullying behavior is continuing, seek professional intervention to help your child with possible emotional or psychological issues.

References

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