A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

No More Bullying: Cyberbullying is a problem; anonymity can make matters worse

This column on bullying in schools will run periodically on the NKyTribune.

By Melissa Martin
Special to NKyTribune

What is Cyberbullying?

It is intentional, hostile, and malicious words with the intent to humiliate and do harm. It is pictures or videos that occur in cyberspace without consent. “Cyberbullying occurs when an individual uses the Internet or another form of technology to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner,” according to www.endcyberbullying.org.

With mounting technologies of the Internet, cell phones, Instant Messaging, emails, chat rooms, blogging and websites, the issue of cyberbullying is ever-increasing. Has your child experienced cyberbullying?

Is Cyberbullying the same as Bullying?

Cyberbullying happens online by the vehicle of technology while bullying occurs face-to-face. Online the bully’s identity can be hidden with an unlimited audience of individuals.

Where are the Parents?

Should parents be criminally liable for kids’ cyberbullying? Mark O’Mara, legal analyst at www.cnn.com asks this question.

“Parental liability laws hold parents accountable, and financially liable, for the behavior of their children when it is deemed that the parents were negligent in their obligation to provide proper parental care and supervision,” according to www.cyberbullying.us. Does this law need to apply for cyberbullying? Do parents need to be held accountable for what their children do on social media sites?

What can Parents Do?

The most important safety tool is parent involvement. Talk to your kids consistently about Internet safety and cyberbullying.

Stopbullying.gov lists tips to help parents protect kids:

• Establish specific rules for cell phones and computers and provide clear consequences.
• Consistently monitor social media sites, text messages, and emails.
• Install monitoring software on your kids’ computers and electronic devices.
• Block the cyberbully on social media and eliminate her/his e-mail address.
• Keep all evidence of cyberbullying, including text messages and harassing e-mails.
• Report cyberbullying with threatening messages to police and school.
• Parents can report to the social media sites as threatening bully messages, which violate company policies.

Other suggestions for safety:

• Know our child’s passwords and screen names.
• “Friend” your child on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and install filters on your child’s computer.
• Consider a cell phone without a camera option for your adolescent.
• Take away cell phones and computers (or computer cords) at night to eliminate nighttime cyberbullying.
• Set time limits on cell phone usage. Do not allow cell phones at the dinner table, at family gatherings, or during family activities.
• Unplug your kids from technology: computer, tablet, iPod, video games, cell phone, and visit nature, play board games, or just talk.

Parents need to find a balance between protecting their kids and policing their kids in regard to social media and technology. Adolescence is a developmental stage where teens are learning to make decisions, solve problems, and establish independence.

Resources on Cyberbullying

Visit www.kycss.org/cyberbullying and learn about The Kentucky Center for School Safety. If cyberbullying is occurring through your school district’s Internet system, school administrators have an obligation to intervene. Contact the police if cyberbullying involves threats of violence, extortion, obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages, harassment, stalking, hate crimes, or child pornography.

The “End to Cyber Bullying” is a nonprofit organization intended to stop bullying in cyberspace. Visit www.endcyberbullying.org.

OnGuardOnline.gov is the federal government’s website (partnered with the Stop Think Connect campaign, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education) to help kids and parents to be safe, secure and responsible online.

You can find free cyberbullying banners for kid’s web page, email, or social networking site at the National Crime Prevention Council website at www.ncpc.org.

CharacterPlus launched a student-led campaign to stop cyberbullying with 80 high school students called ‘Character Goes Viral: Students Stop Cyberbullying.’

If cyberbullying means you or someone you know feels suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the U.S.


Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a child therapist, consultant and educator in Appalachia.

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