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A parent’s guide to cyberbullying

(NC) With a new school year in full swing, it’s a good idea for parents to stay vigilant against online problems kids can face. Cyberbullying is one concern many parents have, and with good reason — it’s becoming a more common and threatening event.

“There’s an increased danger for rapid escalation of cyberbullying, with participants and their victims growing exponentially,” explains Nimmi Kanji, director of Telus Wise Internet and Smartphone Education.

The more you know about cyberbullying, the easier it is to prevent it. Here are four things that’ll help you keep it from happening to your kids this year, or teach you what to do if it does.

It’s more common than you think. Almost one in five Canadian children have been the victim of cyberbullying, while one in four admit they have said something mean online. That means that many more have witnessed it. Your children are not immune. Have you spoken to them about it?

Cyberbullying and bullying are very different. It may be tempting to consider cyberbullying as an online version of traditional schoolyard bullying, but there are a number of differences. Real-world bullying tends to target those who are less popular, while everyone’s a potential target online. Similarly, physical strength does not play a central role in cyberbullying.

Keyboard wars make it worse. Because of the nature of digital communication, accurately assessing tone of voice can be difficult, while the inability to see and read body language can mask the effects of what’s been written. “These are what we call empathy traps, factors that make it difficult to feel empathy in cyberbullying situations,” says Kanji. “They can drive and intensify bullying situations rather quickly.”

The law applies. With cyberbullying, “just kids being kids” is not a viable defense. In fact, cyberbullying can have legal consequences both from a civil and criminal perspective. Some provinces mandate school boards have their own anti-bullying plans and penalties for violations.

Learn more about cyberbullying online at telus.com/wise.