Cyber bullying can be very tough for teens and younger children to handle. Yet whether they're getting victimized online or just seeing it happen to others, kids can gain some great advice and support from websites trying to prevent this type of abuse.
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In case you haven't heard about it by now, cyber bullying happens when one youngster attacks another with name calling, derisive or obscene language, physical threats, or other tactics using cell phones, computers, or other digital devices.
The aggression can happen through social media, text messages, or instant messaging (IM), for instance. The intent is to intimidate, embarrass, humiliate, or otherwise harm the victim.
Some websites deal specifically with stopping cyber bullying, while others cover the kinds of bullying that occur both online and in the physical world.
Adults, too, can gain valuable insights from these sites. Evidence shows that bullying can spawn lowered self-esteem, social isolation, depression, withdrawal, reduced attendance at school, and on rare occasions, even suicide among kids.
Kids are routinely advised on these websites to tell adults about incidents of abuse. However, according to one recent study, although 90 percent of middle school students admit to have gotten their feelings hurt online, only 15 percent of their parents know what "cyber bullying" means.
Here are four of the best sites for tackling the problem.
WiredSafety.org provides general recommendations to kids, parents, and schools about Internet safety, including specific advice about cyber bullying.
The organization has also created one of the most informative short videos available on the subject of cyber bullying. In the two-part video, several kids who have been victimized talk about their experiences, their emotions, and the actions they took to help end the harassment.
Experts agree that any episodes of cyber bullying involving threats to physical safety should be reported to police. However, in cases not involving physical threats, Wired Safety.org runs its own reporting service.
In some cases, the organization is able to offer counseling by trained volunteers.
Basically, the best anti-cyber bullying strategy is to "stop, block and tell," according to the site. If kids get harassed, they should stop what they're doing on the computer or mobile device, block the bully, and tell someone -- either an adult or a friend.
Cyberbully411 focuses exclusively on cyber bullying. The site drills down into topics such as who bullies, who is bullied, and why many victims respond by getting depressed.
Children and teens can get some great tips about how to tell their parents what's going on online. For example, the kids are advised to wait for a time when they can get their parents' full attention, and to detail how the bullying makes them feel -- hurt, afraid, frustrated, or "just glad the whole thing is over.."
The site even gives kids some language they can use with parents. For instance, "Mom/Dad, I want to talk to you about something that happened to me online the other day. It's kinda hard for me to talk about… and if I tell you what happened, I don't want you to take away my Internet privileges… so, yeah, anyways, here's what happened…"
Sometimes, according to the org, it can sometimes be easier to get a conversation rolling with Mom or Dad by sending an email or text to the parent.
As part of its treasure trove of health info for children, teens and parents, KidsHealth is running an article called "World Without Bullying: Brigitte's Story," which delves into a number of bullying issues from a kids' perspective.
"When you think of bullying, you have to consider all four types: physical, verbal, nonverbal, and cyberbullying (using computer or cell phone)," writes Brigitte Berman, who survived bullying in middle school to become a successful book author and public speaker on the subject.
"I think a common misconception we have is that physical bullying is the worst, when really all four types of bullying can be equally painful. Verbal bullying (like using words such as "gay" as insults or speaking badly about another) or nonverbal bullying (such as ignoring another person) can have long-lasting effects."
In reading Berman's story, kids will recognize that they're not alone. She tells of blaming herself and crying in the bathroom at a "catty" girls' school after repeatedly getting shunned. She felt back then that she didn't fit in because of her tall stature and "science nerdiness."
Berman also draws distinctions between the types of bullying common in various age groups. "In middle school, bullying gets amped up. I saw a lot of gossiping and social exclusion among girls, many times much physical bullying among boys and also verbal and cyber bullying among both boys and girls. By high school, the problem of bullying gets a little better because we've matured, but it doesn't just go away. "
Kids with visual disabilities or limited reading skills can follow along with the story on the web site in "listen" mode.
Cartoon Network (CN)
CN is running a long-term campaign both online and over the air against all forms of bullying. In addition to producing a wonderful documentary on the subject, featuring interviews with pro athletes, CN has partnered with various kids' organizations to create cool anti-bullying cartoons.
In addition to viewing these videos, Children visiting CN's Stop Bullying Speak Up site can take pledges against bullying, print out flags supporting the campaign, and download a tip sheet.
At the bottom line, CN's three basic anti-bullying tips include "telling an adult", "being a friend," and "getting involved. "