February 28, 2012 - UPDATED with corrected hyperlink. When my kids were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, the “bullies” stayed on the school playground or ran around the neighborhood.  You know the little bully who took great pleasure in deliberately harassing other children by such means as:   hitting, punching, kicking, shoving, hair pulling, name calling, making fun of someone’s appearance, race, or religion, etc.

Now the bully’s territory has expanded and can reach directly into the comforts of your home, the one place a child is supposed to take refuge from the outside world.   Not only has the bully’s territory expanded into your home, but it can reach to higher levels of harassment because the methods he uses are done in secret, thus freeing him from punishment for such unruly behavior.

Cyber-bullying, it is called. A name applied to bullying through the use of technology.

For example: Nine year old Sammy suddenly received a very graphic and violent text message on his cell phone.  Sammy was so emotionally distraught that he slept with his mother that night, and would not allow her to leave his side for 24 hours.

I personally know this mother, and like most mothers, she had gone to great lengths to protect her child from the obvious, such as monitoring TV programs and movies.    However, she was stunned and taken completely off guard by this invasion into her son’s life by a cell phone, something she had considered perfectly harmlessly.

The cell phone is just one means of cyber-bullying.  Other ways, depending upon the age of your child, might include: (1) writing rude blogs on the internet (2) sending nasty emails (3) talking about someone in a chat room (4)  instant messaging.

May I let you in on a little secret?

Research shows that, in most cases, it is someone your child knows, and perhaps has innocently passed his cell phone number or password on to a so-called friend.

So, what’s a parent to do, or I should say “what are the adults in a child’s life to do as a team effort to combat one of the pitfalls that exists in this hi-tech world we live in?

The best defense against cyber bulling is a strong offense, which involves 2 key steps.

1.      Education: As with most things, education is the beginning of tackling any problem.  Use the Internet to your advantage and educate yourself to what cyber-bullying consists of at different age levels, as well as the emotional damage that it can cause.  One site which has been a service to the community for years about this subject is Health Resources and Services Administration, which is a government agency dedicated to educating the public on cyber-bullying.

2.      Get Involved: How can you get involved?  The home page for the above site offers further education on bullying in general. It also offers ideas which parents, or any interested adult, can present to schools and other organizations within their community to promote bully awareness, and ways to stop it. There are many other Internet sites that are also very helpful. A quick search will list many of those.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

May Dr. King’s words be a challenge to adults to become a team working together to insure that our children are safe from the emotional scars of modern day technology.