Cyberbullying is harassment and verbal bullying carried out via modern communication media such as the internet or the cell phone. Sometimes cyberbullying may spill over into the real, i.e. physical world, and can result in physical attacks. Unfortunately, this form of bullying appears to go hand in hand with young people having access to the internet and other interactive technologies.

Cyberbullying is carried out both inside and outside of school premises, which can make it very difficult for schools and indeed parents to control. Usually, the cyberbully and his victim are both school-age children or teens, but there have been cases of adults, who should know better, becoming involved.

Types Of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can be difficult for parents to identify, especially if they aren't familiar with the technology or websites their children use. Children sometimes fear telling their parents about cyberbullying because they think they won't be believed that words or nasty messages constitute real bullying.

The following activities between children can be considered incidents of cyberbullying:

Sending cell phone text messages, or emails, or messages via social networking sites, which are aggressive, threatening, mean, insulting, or sexually explicit. Sending pictures that have the same effect is also considered cyberbullying.

Using interactive technologies, for example, instant messaging services, websites, email or cell phones or blogs to threaten acts of violence against a child.

Stealing passwords and accessing internet accounts of another child in order to impersonate him and send messages to others. Stealing someone's cell phone and sending unpleasant messages from it to other people, racking up a huge phone bill at the same time, is also cyberbullying.

Setting up a website or internet account dedicated to insulting or harassing another child.

Setting up a website or an account in another child's name and using it to harass other children.

Publishing a child's personal information (contact details, address, bank account number, etc) via the internet or another form of digital media.

This is not a full list of the categories of cyberbullying. Any activity carried out through digital media, which is having a detrimental effect on your child, is worthy of your attention - even if it isn't serious enough to be considered cyberbullying.

Reasons For Cyberbullying

The cyberbully and the school yard bully are thought to have some common motivation, i.e. insecurities and lack of self-esteem or empathy with others. The cyberbully, however, may act as he or she does for motives that aren't usually seen in conventional bullies. Some cyberbullies bully simply because it's easy, because they can, because they're bored, or because they have access to the technology. Some cyberbullies are simply responding to being cyberbullied themselves. And, of course, some cyberbullies bully to exert influence and power over others.

Tackling Cyberbullying

To protect your child from cyberbullying, or put an end to cyberbullying that has already begun, you must keep an open mind. Remember that children who are cyberbullied often respond using the same tactics as the cyberbully, so it may be that your child has also been engaging in cyberbullying.

Some tips:

Let your child know that he can speak to you freely and that you won't react simply by banning him from the internet or from using his cell phone.

Get to know the technology that your child is using and monitor his internet use, at a respectful distance. Allocate specific times for using the internet and perhaps move the computer into a communal area of the home, such as the kitchen. (That doesn't mean you should hover over his shoulder while he is online, this will only force him to be secretive).

Talk to your child about bullying in general and the importance of respecting other people. Make sure he sees examples of respect in the home.

If you find out that your child has been cyberbullied, contact his school (and the police, if threats of physical violence are made). Keep three printed copies of all communication, one for you, one for the police and one for the school. Let the cyberbully know, if possible, that his behavior has been reported to the school authorities and/or the police. Do not try to elicit further contact from the cyberbully in an attempt to get him to incriminate himself.