In my community, the tragic consequences of cyber-bullying have been front page news since the death of Rehteah Parsons last spring.
The teen from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, was bullied mercilessly in her school and the community after a photo of an alleged assault was circulated on the Internet.
The CBC story Child porn charges against 2 teens in Rehtaeh Parsons case elaborates on the case. Rehtaeh was taken off life-support on April 7.
Police reopened Rehteah’s case in mid-April. Now two 18-year-old men are facing pornography-related charges as a result of that investigation.
The CBC story explains that new cyberbullying legislation was introduced in Nova Scotia just prior to the arrests, giving victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies or their parents, if those accused are minors.
Unfortunately, there have been many other news stories in recent years where teens have lost their lives as a result of experiences related to cyber-bullying. As a result, some jurisdictions are implementing new legislation, as Nova Scotia did. But clearly more than legislation is needed. Many partners must come together to prevent and respond to the devastating effects of cyber-bullying.
So what can we do -- as families, churches and the Christian community -- to prevent cyber-bullying and protect children and youth?
Stopbullying.gov suggests a few tips for parents and youth. It's one place we can start. "Parents and kids can explore safe ways to use technology," explains this website. Tips include:
1. Be Aware of What Youth are Doing Online
Stopbullying.gov explains, “Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.” The website suggests:
- Know where and how your kids are spending time online.
- Install parental control filtering software or monitoring programs and review your children’s activities.
- Ask for passwords, and tell your kids you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
- Ask someone you trust to follow your kids on social media sites or do it yourself.
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyber-bullied.
2. Establish Rules about Technology Use
- Establishing rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. be clear about what sites your children can visit and what they are allowed to do online.
- Helping children and youth understand what is appropritate to post or say. Remind them that once something has been posted, it is out of their control and others may circulate it widely.
- Encouraging kids to consider who should see information and pictures posted online. They need to think about how people who aren’t friends could use their information and photos.
- Remind them to keep passwords safe and not share them. Sharing passwords allows others to post for them
3. Understand School Rules
Stopbullying.gov states: "Some schools have developed policies on uses of technology that may affect the child’s online behavior in and out of the classroom. Ask the school if they have developed a policy."
If your school doesn't have a policy, encourage them to develop one.