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article imageSurvey: Girls most likely to be cyberbullied Special

By KJ Mullins     May 17, 2011 in Internet
Tweens and teens are both flocking to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to stay connected with each other. While used correctly this can be a positive thing the sites are also being used as weapons to facilitate cyberbullying.
Norton Canada recently completed a study called The Norton Cyberbullying Survey asking Canadian parents about their children's online experiences. A quarter of the parents said that their child had been involved in a cyberbullying incident. Of those children 66 percent of the parents said their child was a victim and 16 percent admitted that their child was the bully.
More shocking is that 32 percent of parents are unsure of their children's online behaviours but 44 percent fear that their child's online behaviour could involve coming in contact with an online predator.
While on the schoolyard the victims of bullies often are male when it comes to the cyberspace playground girls are the ones being bullied. Parents revealed that 86 percent of those bullied were their daughters compared to a rate of 55 percent when it came to their sons.
Computers are not the only tools being used as a weapon for cyberbullying. Cyberbullies turn to cell phones with middle schoolers using this tool more often.
Even though its not legal for children under the age of 13 to access social networking sites 43 percent of parents are comfortable when their children aged 8-12 have an account as long as the parents can supervise them.
While almost half of parents claim they have an open dialogue with their children about their online behaviour 32 percent feel that they can't control all the environments where their children have access to social networking. This access includes what their children are doing in school.
During a phone interview Norton spokesperson Lynn Hargrove discussed keeping your children safe.
"It's important to have 'the talk' with your kids on an ongoing basis."
Hargrove said that it's helpful to start the talk with discussion on what your children's friends are doing. This takes away a blame attitude and lets your children tell you about what's going on in their life.
"Take the time to surf the Internet with your children including going to the game sites they enjoy."
As you and your children's comfort level grows on the topic of internet safety you can ask them if they have come across areas that concern them.
It's important to have family rules about the use of social networking and computer use for each child. One set of rules across the board for all of your children may not apply depending on age and maturity.
When it comes to cell phones be aware that kids are using them for cyberbullying in some cases.
"Today's cell phones are like having a small PC in your hand and the kids know this."
Texting is one of the biggest ways cyberbullying is taking place with kids aged 12 to 17 Hargrove said. She added that parents need to track their children's cell phone usage through their monthly bills.
Norton has a free family program for online family monitoring. OnlineFamily.Norton allows parents to randomly keep track of what their children's online activity is. From emails to when kids go over time limits to being able to randomly allow access to sites that are blocked the program gives parents an edge for free.
"The program gives parents more information about how their children are surfing on the Internet."
Parents teach their children to shut down a site that is 'bad' but the kids need to alert them about these sites. In Ontario it's the law to alert the police when you come across child pornography sites. It's a way to protect yourself.
Hargrove said to report these sites to the police. "If no one reports it nothing gets done."
Another issue is ID theft. This crime is not just committed against adults Hargroves said.
"Children are very honest. They often innocently give information out that can be dangerous to them."
For that reason parents need to make sure they are friended by their children on social networking sites like Facebook. Parents need to be aware of simple things like the pictures that their children post. A picture where your child is wearing a school t-shirt can alert a predator on their location. It's simple things that matter when it comes to protecting our young ones.
Another thing for parents to remind their older teens is that social networks can effect their future.
"Future employers are Googling their potential employees. That post or blog entry your child makes as a teen is now public domain. Your content is not just your own."
More about Cyberbullying, Social networks, Youth, Cell phones, Bullies
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