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Meet the Cyberbully

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Meet the cyberbully. More often than not, the cyberbully is female.

The cyberbully is getting a lot of press these days. Her methods seem to be very effective.

The cyberbully won't usually harass others in person. The cyberbully is empowered by the anonymity the online world provides.

The cyberbully doesn't just say demeaning or threatening things, although she often does that. The goal is to humiliate, demean, embarrass, exploit, dominate, threaten, or uncover your faults... publicly.

The cyberbully harasses via email, social networks, texts, chat rooms, videos, and more. In fact, as long as there is online access, the cyberbully ultimately has control. The online world provides the medium.

Cyberbullies upload embarrassing pictures or video of their victim, or post nasty rumors or lies so all their friends can see. They'll pretend to be someone else online by going into chat rooms or creating fake profiles on social networks -- to then say embarrassing or negative things.

In addition, cyberbullies can share personal information about the victim in a public forum that identity thieves love to collect.

Most kids don't tell their parents about bullying. Maybe its due to feeling embarrassed or defenseless, or feeling that nothing can be done, or feeling that they will get in trouble for telling their story. For these reasons and more, parents need to maintain open lines of communication with their child.

What to do?

If your child has been cyberbullied, don't panic, but do take immediate action.

  • Speak with your child immediately. Talk openly and ask direct questions.
  • Ask if this is the first incident. If it isn't, ask for details about other incidents.
  • Find out how your child is feeling. Is she annoyed? Scared? Threatened?
  • Consider if your child might do something dangerous in response to the cyberbully, such as retaliate, or self-harm? Understand how your child is feeling to better gauge the urgency of the situation.
  • Make a plan with your child to work toward a resolution with the bully. Your plan might include changing your child's usernames and passwords for online profiles. You may need to meet with school officials, or speak with the parents of the bully.
  • If the incident was serious, seek counseling or medical help for your child. If the incident included criminal activity, report it to local law enforcement.

Software Tools to Monitor

If you worry that your child has been cyberbullied, or is currently being cyberbullied, consider using a social network monitoring program like Net Nanny Social, Social Guard, or SocialShield.

Social network monitoring software helps parents keep track of a child's posts, pictures, and friends. Look for a solution providing coverage for the social networks your child uses, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Ask.fm, and/or Tumblr. Make sure you get one that uses keywords to trigger alerts sent to parents immediately, to give you peace of mind.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your child.

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