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Many Teenagers are affected by cyber bullying each day in New England.

 Q: How can I, as a parent, prevent and stop cyber-bullying?

 Cyber-bullying is often done by harassing another through emails, instant messages, text messages, and other avenues of electronic communication. “Some bullies start out as a friend, an ex, or someone your child may know well.” Said Alexia Bolton of Columbia University Dispatch. In one bullying case, it was another parent that may have been the cause. It is a little frightening to think about, but something can be done steps can be taken to ensure your childs safety online and in schools.

 The first step is prevention. Safety Web and other programs like it, is an excellent tool for parents to use. Safety Web monitors your child’s social media activity while ensuring their privacy. You also may set up parental alerts through Safety Web for inappropriate content. If your child is talking about inappropriate matters, or being bullied online by another child Safety Web sends you out an alert instantly. The average teen sends over 3,000 texts per month Safety Web keeps it simple with mobile monitoring.

 Set rules and guidelines for your teen concerning internet etiquette and usage. Explain to your children why you are using such programs to keep them safe without violating their privacy. Educate them on internet etiquette: ask them to consider who will see their words online. In face to face conversations your child can see who they are talking to and modify their comments to fit the situation, this does not happen online, explain this to them in detail. Online you may or may not know who will see what you say, or understand what your child is trying to say. Their peers may take what your child has said in a different manner than intended. Facebook and other social networks are not private. Even though your child may have private settings, Facebook and other social networks is a billboard that others are seeing and talking about. Remember, some bullies start out as a friend, an ex, or someone your child may know well. Explain to your child your rules of internet usage and what you expect out of him or her. Teach them it is unacceptable to expose information about themselves or someone else including pictures and videos without permission.

 “Facebook and computer usage are privileges. Your children should have to demonstrate the responsibility that go along with those privileges. You do not hand your child the keys to your car if you have found they have been drinking. Why would you allow your child to use Facebook and other social media if they have been using it inappropriately?” commented one parent.  Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to deal with the challenges that they will encounter.

 What do I do if your child is being bullied?

 Do not.. Do not respond to the text messages, instant messages, emails or other communications your child may have received from the bully. Bullies want a reaction from their targets, so texting back will only make things worse. Do not inform your child to handle the situation or expect them to. Do not let your child reveal their address, phone number and whereabouts online. You might be tempted to let the bullying run its course instead of bringing attention to the problem, but if you do that the bully will get the message that there is no consequence for putting someone else in danger. Do not assume the problem will go away on its own.

 You Can.. Immediately put an end to the bully’s threats by blocking that person from direct communication with your child. Once you’ve made sure all prior messages have been saved. Delete the person from your child’s social networks and prevent them from getting in contact with your child again. Block the person from your child’s phone. Prevent the person from finding a new way to contact your child by limiting the amount of personal information they make available online. The bully may be able to find a way to continue harassing your child by posing as someone else. Eliminate the possibility by changing your child’s screen name, as well as your child’s profile picture and other information that makes them easy to find online.

 What is the next step? There are two effective ways to deal with the situation. Document everything every email, text, instant message, web address, and other evidence you can collect from the bully. Write down the time and date that each message was sent. With documentation in hand, contact your child’s school’s patrol officer and principal for help with mediation between the parents and students involved. The second, which is less evasive, is to contact the other childs parents because they may not know what their own child is doing. Have the conversation in person never through an email or text. If you do not know who the bully is, or if your child is being bullied by a group of people, attempting to talk it out probably will not work. You may need to take a stronger action by calling the local authorities and informing the school board.

Raising teens is perhaps harder than ever, but parents of teens can succeed with the right mix of guidance, wisdom and parental involvement. Most of all do not be afraid to step up and protect your children.

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