Teen arrests puts spotlight on cyber-bullying problem
Two girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested in Florida on Monday in connection with the suicide of a 14-year old girl who was allegedly bullied by them. One of the accused bullies even went so far as to brag about it on her Facebook page, according to the Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd at a press conference on Tuesday.
“’Yes, I bullied Rebecca [Sedwick] and she killed herself but I don’t give a …’ and you can add the last word yourself,” Judd said.
Despite the victim’s parents moving her to a new school, the bullying continued online until she changed one of her online screen names to “That Dead Girl” and then messaged a boy in North Carolina: “I’m jumping.”
This incident is shedding new light on the issue of online bullying.
According to researchers from the Johnson & Wales University, in Providence, RI, one in three of 4,200 middle- and high-school aged students surveyed said they had been cyberbullied while in school. Researchers also discovered that most students had little or no awareness of safety concerns while surfing the web.
One-third of the middle school group said their parents monitor their activity and only 17 percent of high school students have their Internet usage monitored.
What can parents do to educate and protect their children from online bullying?
Dr. Chris Jamerson, pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., offers the following tips for parents to ensure their kids stay safe from potential bullying situations while online:
- No more than two hours of screen time per day should be allowed.
- Talk to your kids and set guidelines so they know what they can and cannot do online. Parents should stress the importance of never providing names, addresses, age, school location, phone numbers or passwords to someone over the Internet.
- Engage in a conversation with your kids when they are offline. Talk about what they did, what websites they visited and what information they were looking for.
- Check their usage. Newer devices have built in tracking devices where parents can go back and look at all the sites their kids have visited.
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