SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. –
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2000, about half of
adults in the U.S. were online and only 3 percent of American households were
using broadband for Internet access at home. That number increased and in 2014,
Pew reported that 87 percent of American adults use the Internet.
Today, the Internet is readily available and can be easily
accessed on smartphones. Even teenagers and children have access to the
Internet. This ease of access to information has changed the world for the better,
but it has also brought with it many new threats – one of which is
“Children have been bullying each other throughout the
ages,” said William White, 375th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program outreach
manager at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “However, today’s generation has been
able to use technology and social media to expand their reach and the extent of
their harm. It is important for parents and children to understand that
cyberbullying is willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of
computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, and can cause serious
Family advocacy along with the youth center and the Healthy
Military Children initiative want to give parents the tools they need to
prevent cyberbullying and to stop it if it does occur.
“Cyberbullying is a form of teen violence that can and does
do serious damage,” White said. “Our kids are being hurt by this. With this
class, we’re going to give parents the terminology and statistics to understand
what is happening, so they can recognize it and stop it.
“Due to the complexities associated with social behavior and
online cyberbullying, it is important that parents talk with their children and
address the topic of cyberbullying with them, even if your child does not
mention any problems,” White said.
First, talk with children about making themselves safe
online. According to http://www.stopbullying.gov, a website managed by the
Department of Health and Human Services website, online accounts should be made
private. Each different type of account like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,
have ways to make them private. Go over those privacy settings with them to
keep their posts and photos safe.
Some basic rules can also keep children safe online. Decide
what rules children need to follow, and then go over them. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention recommends telling children to never give out
personal information. If a friend or loved one needs their information, they
recommend calling the person directly and not putting it online, even in a
The CDC also recommends children never add people to their
friend’s list they don’t know. There are many fake social media accounts and
children should be taught to beware of them. It is also recommended that children
do not initiate contact with people they do not know.
Next, parents should tell their children what to do if they
are being cyberbullied, stalked or harassed. The CDC recommends that parents
assure their children that they can come to them with any situation, even if
the child was doing something they knew they shouldn’t have been doing, such as
going on a forbidden website or using their phone after curfew.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center reported that
students surveyed in a 2010 reported that the most helpful things that teachers
can do are: listen to the student, check in with them afterward to see if the
bullying stopped, and give the student advice. Parents can also follow these
same guidelines: listen to children, check in with them often, and tell them
what they could or should do.
“The best tack parents can take when their child is
cyberbullied is to make sure their child feels safe and secure, convey
unconditional love and support,” White said.
Students also reported in the same study that telling the
person to stop or that it hurts their feelings, walking away, or pretending it
doesn’t bother them, had the most negative impact on getting help while or
after being targeted by bullying.
Finally, if a child tells their parent that they are being
bullied, the parent needs to act, White said. The parent should contact the
school and possibly the authorities. Parents need to believe their children and
do what is necessary to help their children when they are being bullied.
“Document and report cyberbullying,” White said. “Do not
delete or erase messages that pertain to cyberbullying. The authorities can use
it to possibly prosecute the person who is doing the bullying.”