Mom and Dad, wake up: If you assume your child is using that fancy home computer to stimulate his brain, think again. The hottest new trend has kids using those keyboards to send vile, hateful and highly slanderous messages about their peers through the Internet. Once confined to playgrounds, bullying has hit cyberspace, cell phones and pagers, and it's both serious and sophisticated. So what should a parent do if their child is cyberbullied?
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Block further communication.
If your child is victimized change your phone number or e-mail account, and talk to your provider. Contact police for threats of violence and extortion.
Monitor that computer.
Keep your computer in a central space and out of your kid's bedroom.
Pull the plug.
If your child ever uses a cell phone, pager, answering machine, or fax, to send vicious gossip or hate, remove the electronic gizmo from your kid and pull the computer plug from power surge.
Teach assertive skills.
Research finds that kids who learn how to be assertive and appear more confident are less likely to be targeted by bullies. In fact, studies show it's often not how "different" your child looks or acts but rather her victim-like demeanor that makes her an easy target. So teach your child an arsenal of strategies she can use to defuse a bully and then practice with her until she feels confident in using them on her own.
Take your child seriously.
This is painful stuff and your child needs your empathy and support. Watch your child carefully and tune into his or her emotional signs. Don't let your child be victimized.
More ways to keep kids safe online: