The topic of how to avoid cyberbullying is among the most hotly debated among parents around the world.
All children and young adults should know proper "netiquette" (internet etiquette) the proper use of sending emails, texts and any other form of electronic messaging.
So many things may be accidentally sent or misinterpreted leaving either sender or receiver embarrassed, humiliated, hurt or harassed. Fortunately there are some fantastic solutions for parents to monitor what's happening on their kid's mobile devices.
This includes your name, address, phone number, school name, passwords, name of any team you play sports with, and any other information that would be used to try and contact you offline. This rule applies also to the personal information of others.
You do not have the right to post someone else's personal information. It is considered a criminal offence if you do.
Personal information also includes photographs. If you post pictures of yourself, make sure your photo is absolutely secure and can only be viewed by people you know or choose to be a friend online. Before posting photos of someone else it is best to ask their permission first.
Make sure that you are sending the message you are sending to the right person. Double check the spelling and make sure that you add your friend to your contact list of your email service or program. Many mailbox servers block out spam and your message may get caught up in the junk. So, before you get offended that your friend hasn´t responded, double check that they have received it in the first place. Some kids may get angry without a response, jump to the gun and send a hurtful message that is not warranted.
Also, check that your friend's email address is personal. Many families share the same email address, so it may be embarrassing if your friend´s mother or older sibling read a private message you intended for your friend´s eyes only. If they do share an email always watch your language and edit what you have to say.
Just because someone posts online that they are 13 years old, doesn't mean that they actually are. Or that a girl is really a girl, or a child is really a child.
The problem with internet is that anyone can hide behind a computer, so you can never be sure who you are communicating with. We tell our own children never to accept any online friends that they have never met in person.
It is best to step away from the computer and cool down. Think before you send a message. Spontaneous and emotional messages can turn out to be offensive and hurtful. More times that not, you will regret an angry message you may have sent. Sending angry messages, which threaten or harass another makes you a cyberbully.
If you are sent a hateful message from a cyberbully resist the urge to respond. A reaction is exactly what a cyberbully is looking for. He relishes in the feeling of power and control through fear and anxiety placed on their victim. You will show more power by ignoring them than by reacting.
Your mother always said, Don't talk to strangers on the street. Well, the same applies to online communication.
If you do not know who the sender is, delete the message immediately, no matter how curious you are. Not only can it be hate mail, but oftentimes viruses are sent this way.
Keep your computer safe and ignore strangers. If you are not sure what to do, ask your parents or an adult.
Although everyone likes to get fun emails, not everyone has the time or patience for them. Ask before you send jokes or long emails.
Chain emails clog up email servers and can even scare younger kids. Some cyber stalkers use chain mail to find new victims to prey on, so delete any that you receive. Hoax emails can also unnecessarily scare others with information that is simply not true and contain legends, rumors and myths. This kind of email can offend some people who may not react so kindly to your message.
If you decide to forward a message to more than one friend, use the BCC (Blind Copy) to list your email recipients. This way the receiver does not have to scroll through a long list of email addresses.
This also serves as a security feature. Spammers can get a hold of email addresses this way and use them to send more spam to people who are not really friends. Keep your email address, and others', private and use the BCC: field (not the TO: field) when forwarding messages to more than one person.
Because there is no tone of voice in text messages, people may interpret things differently from what you intended. Try to avoid shorthand or acronyms.
Read your message again and if there needs to be some explanation then add an emoticon or word it differently so that your message comes across as you want it to. Feelings may be hurt and backlashes taken if you are misinterpreted.
If you accidently hurt someones feelings, immediately apologize and explain. It will save someone from turning into a cyberbully.
We all have opinions on all subjects, but there are certain topics that we need to be more aware of when giving our opinion.
Keep in mind that internet is global and includes a mix of cultures, genders and ages. What is ok to say or talk about in the US may not be in China, Australia or Russia.
Try and be respectful to others when discussing controversial topics such as religion, politics, gender, or war. People can get very emotional about them and, as mentioned before, emotions and internet do not mix. It is ok to have an opinion, but keep in mind the point of views of others. And never intentionally try to hurt someone online to try and get your point across. It simply will not work and can turn into something dangerous.
If you have something really private to share, it is best to talk to the person face to face or on the phone.
Messages can be misled or sent to the wrong person unintentionally and then be used by cyberbullies to harass you. If you are not willing for others to see it or read it, then don´t post it. Courts allow others to read your e-mails under special circumstances and recruiters often Google their applicants to see what kind of a person they may hire. Finding a party girl online may cost you a possible job opportunity.
What goes online usually stays online, so it is best to Google yourself from time to time to see what pops up. If there is anything that could damage your reputation or lure a cyberbully or possibly even a pedophile, then start taking action to remove it.
Back to top of Avoid cyberbullying - preventative measures
If you are attacked by a cyberbully, not only should you IGNORE him, but keep the messages. The more evidence you have, the more chances you have to stop the cyberbully.
Save any messages and show them to an adult. The police, website or internet service provider will be able to use these messages to block an account or bring criminal charges if applicable.
Internet can be a very useful tool of communication, networking and meeting new people, however you must always be vigilant if you want to take your relationship offline. If you must meet offline, always go with a parent or an adult you trust and only agree to meet in a public place. It is always better to be safe than sorry.