2015-04-29 / Features

Crime Chat With DA Brown: Cyberbullying

BY QUEENS DISTRICT ATTORNEY RICHARD A. BROWN

Bullying is often seen as an unfortunate but natural part of adolescence. Once limited to the confines of the schoolyard and the street, bullying has now been transformed into cyberbullying through synchronization with cell phones, the internet and any other electronic device capable of sending or posting text or images. Social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, are among the leading places that cyberbullying occurs. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. As in all bullying situations, cyberbullying involves three participants: the person who is doing the bullying, the person being bullied and those who stand by, see what is happening, and choose to do nothing.

Cyberbullying victims may be targeted anywhere, at any time – even in their own home when they are alone. One of the reasons why it is so devastating for children is the 24/7 aspect of it. It spreads fast, it follows children home and has a huge audience. Such bullying may undermine a child’s sense of security and self-worth. It is therefore important to remember that, as a parent, your child can be victimized and in dealing with the situation you need to make sure that he or she feels safe and secure and that you fully support them and will work with them to stop the cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can take many forms. Some examples are: sending mean or threatening messages; spreading rumors through technology; creating false profiles to make fun of someone; obtaining passcodes and accessing someone else’s account to create inappropriate postings; recording and posting fight videos; posting embarrassing pictures; manipulating photo images to make someone look bad; and inappropriate language/trash talking in an online game.

Warning signs that you should be aware of that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying include avoiding use of their computer, cell phone or any other technological device; appearing stressed when receiving an email, instant message or text; withdrawing from family and friends or acting reluctant to attend school and social events; avoiding conversations about computer use; and exhibiting signs of low selfesteem, including depression and/or fear. Other signs include declining grades or poor eating or sleeping habits.

If your child, preteen or teen is the victim of a cyberbully, tell them not to respond to rude emails, messages, and comments. That will only make it worse and may result in their becoming the bully. Save the evidence, such as email and text messages, and take screenshots of comments and images. Also, take note of the date and time when the harassment occurs. Contact your internet service provider (ISP) or cell phone provider. Ask the website administrator or ISP to remove any web page created to hurt your child. If harassment is via email, social networking sites, instant messaging and chat rooms, help your child to “block” bullies or delete your child’s current account and open a new one. If harassment is via text and phone messages, change the phone number and instruct your child to only share the new number with trustworthy people. Also, check out phone features that may allow the number to be blocked. Make a report if you feel something illegal has occurred and inform law enforcement.

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