The days when a child’s home was a refuge from bullies are, unfortunately, long gone. The Internet is the new playground, and there are no off-hours.
This is what Det. Peter Badalucco, of the Nassau County Police, told parents gathered at Lynbrook High School last month for a town hall meeting on cyberbully that also included Lynbrook Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa Burak, New York State Assemblyman Brian Curran, Town of Hempstead Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino, East Rockaway Village Foundation President Theresa Gaffney and Lynbrook Associate Village Justice C. William Gaylor III. The purpose of the forum was to educate the public about ways to prevent harassment online.
Dr. Burak noted that children growing up in today’s world are able to communicate with people across the country and around the world with the click of a button. While there are many benefits to emerging technologies that improve students’ access to online communications, parents need to keep an eye on how their children are using the Internet.
"We were once again frightfully reminded by the Newtown tragedy how external forces sometimes pose great threats to our children,” Dr. Burak said. “We try to shelter our kids from these dangers and educate them so they are better equipped for whatever comes their way, but the world of today is not the same world that many of us grew up in. The Internet has played a great role in changing that world.”
According to Enough.org, tech-savvy students are turning to cyberspace to harass their peers using a new method of bullying – cyberbullying, which is willful and repeated harm inflicted through the Internet, interactive technologies or mobile phones. Forty three percent of teens ages 13 to 17 report that they have experienced some sort of cyberbullying in the past year. Badalucco said that parents should encourage their children to have open lines of communication if anybody says or does something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
Parents should watch out for warning signs, such as reluctance to use the computer, a change in a child’s behavior/mood, or reluctance to go to school. Badalucco said parents should save the messages posted by cyberbullies, as it makes it easier to report to authorities. He said parents and students should save emails, email addresses, date and time received, copies of all relevant emails, screenshots, etc., when cyberbullying occurs. Parents should also remind their children that those who bully want to make their victims feel as if there is something wrong with them, but victims should know that there is nothing wrong with them.