In Your Corner: Cyber Bullying

On Feb. 16 I had the privilege of attending a statewide peer mediators conference with 13 mediators from Kapa’a High, Kapa’a Middle, and Island School. Deputy Attorney General Kristin Izumi-Nitao spoke about cyber bullying at one of the workshop sessions, and gave a handout created by the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. I have permission to quote from it, but also will fax copies to those who email me that they would like a copy.

Victims of cyber bullying may experience depression, low self-esteem, change of interests or a drop in grades. The effects may be deeper because the bullying often occurs at home, violating the place where the child feels safest, and it may be harsher because cyber bullies believe that they are anonymous.

Cyber bullying consists of sending or posting cruel messages, photos, or videos on the Internet or other electronic media with the intent of damaging the reputation of the target. Types of cyber bullying include but are not limited to:

• Sending angry or vulgar messages.

• Harassing victims with repeated offensive or cruel messages.

• Creating web sites that have stories, cartoons, or pictures that mock others.

• Impersonating another by breaking into his or her online account and sending vicious or embarrassing material to others.

• Tricking someone into revealing sensitive personal information, and electronically sending that to others.”

To help prevent you/your child from becoming a target get educated on how people can become targets:

• “Keep the computer in a family room where there is lots of traffic.

• Create clear and simple rules for internet use. A good example is

www.netsmartz.org

• If you/your child becomes a victim of cyber bullying don’t respond. Save the material and report it.

• Try to remain as anonymous as possible by withholding last names, contact info and financial info. Consider the dangers of revealing personal information.

• Remember that online not everyone is who they say they are.

• Be aware the Internet service providers such as AOL or RoadRunner do have rules of conduct. Violations may result in the temporary or permanent cancellation of service.

• Misconduct online can lead to grave consequences for others, including violent attacks or suicide.

• Cyber bullies may face criminal arrest, costly civil lawsuits, and/or severe long-term consequences for future education and career opportunities.

• Think of how one’s actions reflect on oneself.

• Remember that electronic postings are permanent. Each posting could continue to cause harm to others and potentially one’s own future.

If a child becomes a target of Cyber bullying:

•Do not retaliate because it will likely make the situation worse.

• Save the evidence and try to identify the cyber bully.

• Tell the cyber bully to stop. Use a non-emotional but assertive message.

• Ignore the cyber bully. Block or filter all further communication, avoid the websites where the attack occurred.

• Change email addresses, screen names and passwords.

• Contact the websites used for attack, your Internet Service Provider or cell phone company, and file a complaint.

• Report the attacks to school administration. They can watch for additional bullying at school, check the cyber bully’s school Internet records, and contact the cyber bully’s parents.

• Contact the police if the cyber bullying contains any of the following: threats of violence, coercion, obscene or harassing messages, stalking, hate crimes, creating or sending a sexually explicit picture, or sexual exploitation.

• Annaleah Atkinson is the Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at aatkinson@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi Street, Lihu‘e, Hawai‘i, 96766.

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