ADHD and Cyber Bullying
In previous post, we've talked about bullying, both how parents can help a child who is being bullied and what to do if your child is the bully. Both are important. As any parent of a child with special needs or who feels different because of being gay... being gifted... being overweight, there is an increased risk of being bullied and picked on. But a study released in the summer of 2010 also showed that children with ADHD are more likely to bully other children.
In the past, when we talked about bullying, we thought about the bully on the playground, the one who took lunch money and threatened and intimidated other children. Certainly we did not want our children to be bullied, to go through their school day feeling afraid. But we could work with the school and offer our children a safe haven at home. When they were home, they were in a secure environment, they were loved and accepted. They had nothing to fear, until cyber bullying. Just as we are able to reach out to the whole world from our living room, the whole world is also able to reach us through computers and cell phones. Our children no longer have a safe refuge from bullies.
What is Cyber Bullying?
According to OLWEUS, a bullying prevention program, " cyber bullying is bullying through email, instant messaging, chat room exchanges, website posts, or digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant." Cyber bullying, like bullying, is repeated, unwanted behavior meant to be intimidating and involves negative actions, such as name-calling, socially isolating someone or threats by one person toward another who is not able to defend himself or has difficulty defending himself. In cyber bullying, however, these actions are done via the computer or cell phone. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, almost one half of all teens have been victims of some sort of cyber bullying.
Some of the common forms of cyber bullying include:
- Pretending to be someone else and posting or sending embarrassing or humiliating comments about someone.
- Spreading lies about someone.
- Sending hurtful or sexual text messages or emails to someone repeatedly.
Uploading and posting pictures of someone without their consent or knowledge or refusing to take down pictures of someone after they have asked. This can include posting pictures of someone in compromising situations or digitally altered pictures.
- Fighting with someone online with vulgar or angry language. This is sometimes called "flaming."
- Hacking into someone's email or social networking accounts or setting up an email account with someone else's name and using it to send hurtful messages or post embarrassing pictures of others in order to make this person a social outcast.
- Posting or texting embarrassing secrets about someone to others. Some cyber bullies will trick people into sharing embarrassing information and then forward it to others.
- Intimitating, threatening or using language in emails, texts or on social networking sites that makes someone afraid for their physical safety.
The website, Prevent Cyberbullying states that over 60 percent of cyber bullies are under the age of 18. Although this type of bullying can occur using a variety of technology, most harassment happens on social networking sites or through instant messaging.
How Is Cyber Bullying Different Than Bullying?
Cyber bullying is a form of bullying, but there are some specific differences as well:
- The victim of cyber bullying often does not know who is harassing them. The bully can stay anonymous, inflicting pain for long periods of time. Bullies can feel more empowered because they can remain in the background, they may not be willing to be mean to someone face-to-face but are bolder when it is anonymous.
- Victims of cyber bullies often remain silent. This could be out of fear of physical aggression if the bully has threatened, fear of further torment or because they are afraid of having their cell phone or computer taken away.
- When bullying occurs on the playground or in school, there may be a few witnesses, other students and teachers who may see the interactions and come to a child's aid. In cyber bullying witnesses are those that receive forwarded messages or read the posts. With forwarding and through the internet, witnesses can reach thousands or millions of people.
Cyberbullying can occur anytime, anywhere. Bullying traditionally has been limited to the playground, school, the bus or the walk home. But cyberbullying occurs in the virtual world and can continue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, giving the victim no reprieve from the harassment.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents need to stay involved in their child's online life and monitor computer and cell phone use. This can be difficult as parents want to balance a child's need for privacy with their need to be protecte. The following are some tips for parents:
- Talk with your children about cyber bullying. Let them know that it is wrong, that harassment, whether by text, online or in-person is a violation of their right to feel safe and secure. Let them know you want to know if this ever happens to them. Let them know you will not blame them or punish them but will work with them to put a stop to the harassment.
- Remind your children not to pass on messages that are forwarded about someone else. Explain that they should respect other people's right to privacy. They should delete any messages or photos they receive through their phone. They should never comment negatively about someone else online.
- Request your children's school educate students about cyber bullying in the classroom or through assemblies. Education should include safe online practices, preventing cyber bullying and what to do if they are being bullied.
- Remind your children on a regular basis about online safety: never give out personal information, never set up a meeting with someone online.
- Report cyber bullies to site administrators and internet providers.
- In addition, there are software programs to monitor your children's activities online. Whether or not you use these programs is a personal decision.
"What is Cyber Bullying?", 2011, Staff Write, OLWEUS
"Who Cyberbullies?", 2011, Staff Writer, Prevent Cyberbullying and Internet Harassment