Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, threaten, tease, harass or even target another person. It is one platform used by the 21st Century bully to inflict pain and humiliation upon another. This type of bullying is conducted through emails, chat rooms, social network sites, text messages, cell phones and even websites.
There are countless ways a child can be bullied with this type of technology. And the number of ways is increasing, just as technology continues to advance. Today, children are not able to seek refuge from a bully, as technology has vastly broadened the avenues of hurting someone. With the use of online technology and social networking sites, today’s bully can follow their targeted victim wherever the child may go. Whether kids are in school, at the park, at the movie theater or at home, whenever bullied children have a cell phone or access to online technology, they can be bullied.
In essence, this form of bullying can be non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For the foster child, cyberbullying is yet another wound in an already damaged psyche.
The most important thing you can do as a foster parent to protect your foster child from cyberbullies is to stay heavily involved in all aspects of the child’s school life. Ask your foster child each day about school. Enquire about your child’s friends. Keep in regular contact with your foster child’s teachers and ask for updates on the child’s behavior and academics. Become a volunteer at the school to become more involved in your child’s school life.
In today’s digital world, cyberbullies can easily create a website to mock, embarrass or humiliate others. Even the novice computer user can find easy-to-follow online directions in building a new website. Many times, it is free or inexpensive to produce a website. Today’s schoolyard fighting has added technology. Children are now showing up at fights and videotaping them, usually through their smartphones. Known as “happy slapping,” many of these fights are posted online for others to see. Whether they are posted online or on social network sites, such as Facebook, or on online video sites, such as YouTube, this form of cyberbullying is increasing in schools.
If you believe your foster child is a victim of cyberbullying while at school, immediately bring this to the attention of the school principal, administrators and school counselor. Also be sure to inform your foster child’s social worker of any problems. And keep all concerns in documented form.
Check your foster child’s online devices on a regular basis, looking for cyberbullying- based messages. These devices include your child’s cell phone, laptop, ipad, and any other online device. Remember that you are not invading your child’s privacy. Instead, you are helping to keep the child and the child’s privacy safe.
Before your foster child gets online while living in your home, it is critical that you establish rules, guidelines and expectations in regards to online and computer use. Post these rules and expectations near the computer as a reminder. Be consistent with these rules and take away privileges when necessary. Keep all online devices in areas where you can monitor use, so you can see what the child is being exposed to.
It is your duty and responsibility as a foster parent to keep your foster child safe from all dangers. This includes all online dangers, such as cyberbullying. It is important that you know all of your foster child’s login and password information, and be sure to share these with the child’s caseworker. Remember that you are not invading the child’s privacy, you are ensuring that you are able to better protect your child from harm.
Set all privacy settings and controls to “private,” restricting who can view and access your child’s social network page. Install Google Alert onto your own device. This free service will alert you any time your foster child’s name appears online.
Watch for sudden mood swings that might suggest a child is being bullied, as well as signs of depression, isolation and separation from others. If you see these signs, talk to the child and listen to his/her concerns. Encourage kids to express their feelings and allow them to share without judgement from you. Report all sudden mood swings to the child’s social worker and keep documentation of all incidents.
Bullying has changed in the 21st Century with the marriage of technology and bullying. With the use of online technology and social networking sites, today’s bullies can follow their targeted victim wherever they may go. The foster child who is cyberbullied can never escape, as the bullying can follow the child through technological means. Cyberbullies can attack a foster child in a number of ways. These include publicly disclosing someone’s private email, information or messages; sending threatening or aggressive messages or rumors online; or excluding someone from buddy lists and blocking their emails.
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