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Sunday, April 24, 2011

One If by Land, Two If by Sea...and Too Late If by Cyberspace

Nothing personal.   That's just the way cyber-bullying can be.  Except that, for the victim, it is.  And hurtful, too.

Warfare has been revolutionized since the days of Paul Revere perched high in the church tower. Technological advancements have brought tactical enhancements.  One way it's now conducted is with military personnel controlling drones flying over places like Afghanistan and launching missiles in designated locations, with all of this controlled via remote access back in the USA.  When the work day is done, "air traffic controllers" head home for dinner with their families.  It resembles a video game.  Nothing personal.  That's just the way it can be.

Kids can conduct their own warfare at home as well...and from a distance outside the physical reach of the intended target, too.  They can launch missiles via text, email, Facebook, Formspring and the like.  And the missiles, once exploded, can form viral mushroom clouds that go far beyond the original point of attack. Once done, these kids can move into the kitchen for dinner with the family.  It looks like virtual bullying.  It's also virtue-less.  Nothing personal.  That's just the way it can be.

When you don't have to "see" the target, the inclination to launch is less of an impediment.  The blow delivered, however, is no less severe.  And there is no early warning device, either.  Log on and ...boom.  You're hit.  You never see it coming.  And you may never know who launched it because the missile could be wrapped in anonymity.   Home used to provide a safe haven from harassment.  No more.

Below are some facts related to this potential peril;
  • Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying.
  • Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim (many are afraid they'll lose their tech privileges if they do tell).
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement.
  • 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras.
  • Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying.
  • Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls.
  • Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying.
How can one defend against this?  Here are some suggestions.
  • Make a rule that teens may not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it, or suggestive pictures or messages or they will lose their cell phone and computer privileges for a time.
  • Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring. Tell them if they are the victims they will not be punished, and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.  It's not easy to manage this as a parent when texting and Facebook and even emailing are controlled by the child.  Open lines of communication between parents and children are vital.
  • Teens should keep cyber bullying messages as proof that the cyber bullying is occurring. The teens' parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyber bully, to the bully's Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.
  • Teens should never tell their password to anyone except a parent, and should not write it down in a place where it could be found by others.
  • Keep the computer in a shared space like the family room, and do not allow teens to have Internet access in their own rooms.
  • Encourage teens to have times when they turn off the technology, such as at family meals or after a certain time at night.
Sources:  Hartford County Examiner and Cyber-Bullying Research Center 

In order to minimize vulnerability to surprise attacks via cyberspace, it's wise to take necessary precautions and be prepared to respond appropriately if attacked.   It's never too late to do either.  It only invites harm to do neither.

Nothing personal.  That's just the way cyber-bullying can be.

More web sites for information are below.




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