Cyberbullying has emerged as a new form of harassment, causing emotional and psychological distress among students. Understanding and addressing this threat is crucial, especially as the virtual world continues to intertwine with our daily lives.
To provide guidance for students and parents, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) offers the following tips and recommendations to ensure safe online interactions. Whether you are a student, a parent, or a guardian, the following information can help you navigate the the internet safely.
Prevent Electronic Bullying
If you are a Student:
- Don't respond if someone is bullying you or your friends electronically—tell your parent, an adult at school, or a person you trust.
- Tell an adult if you receive messages that make you feel uncomfortable, are cruel, or are designed to hurt you or someone else.
- Don’t share information online that could be embarrassing.
- Don’t share personal information, such as your name, age, address, or phone number.
If you are a Parent/Guardian:
- If your child is accused of cyberbullying, seek help from your Internet provider, your school and, if indicated, professional counseling.
- Contact the police if your child receives violent threats or pornography over the Internet.
- Contact the police if your child receives obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages.
- All Washington schools are required by law to have a cyberbullying policy—become familiar with your school’s policy.
- Consider using filters that block inappropriate Internet sites.
Tips for Parents
- Create a written Internet safety plan. Set rules for Internet and e-mail use. Include specific strategies for what your teen will do if they are sexually solicited online, or if they are frightened by an online encounter. Sign the plan and post it near the computer.
- Remind your teen not to disclose personal information online.
- Draft a list together of what not to share, including name, age, school, phone number, home address and photos.
- Talk frequently to your teen. Discuss their online friends just as you talk about their other friends.
- Keep the computer in a common area of the house. This makes it easier to monitor computer use.
- Ask your teen to tell you right away about any uncomfortable online experience, with assurances that you will not be angry if he or she confides in you.
- Consider filtering or monitoring software. While they can help you control your teen’s online use, these devices are no substitute for parental involvement and supervision.
- Be aware. Your teen might use computers at school, public libraries, and friends’ homes.
- Know the signs of “grooming.” When someone initiates online contact with a young person with the intention of establishing a sexual relationship, it is called “grooming.”
- If you suspect online “grooming” of your teen or of any other child, report it to your local law enforcement agency
Tips for Teens
The Internet can be a great research tool and a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family. But going online also presents some possible dangers that you need to know about. Here are some ways to steer clear of trouble while using the Web.
Nothing is Private
- Think about what you type. Never send your personal information, such as name, address, phone number, pictures, or the name of your school out into cyberspace.
- E-mails can be forwarded with the click of a mouse. Remember that any personal information you send to someone could be sent to other people very quickly.
- Never make plans to meet an online "friend" in person without first checking with your parent/guradian. If your parent/guardian is OK with the idea, bring them along and make the meeting in a public place.
- Remember, no matter how friendly and fun someone seems online, they may be completely different in real life.
- Your online behavior is your responsibility. Don't harass or bully, and don't respond when someone else tries to pick an online fight.
When to Tell
- If you encounter someone or something online that makes you uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult right away! The adult can view the information on the monitor and decide whether to report to law enforcement.
- “Grooming” is when an adult goes online to meet young people with the intention of establishing an inappropriate relationship.
- If you suspect that you or someone you know is the target of grooming, tell a trusted adult immediately.
- If something you see online seems “too good to be true,” it probably is. If you receive any offers that involve going to a meeting, having someone visit your house, or sending money or credit card information, tell your parent or guardian.
- A Thin Line: A site created by MTV to empower youth to identify, respond to, and stop digital abuse among young people. A Thin Line has added a Grown Ups link for parents and educators.
- NetSmartz: Classroom and background information and resources from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.