What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time. Source kidshealth.org, author Source kidshealth.org, author Michele New PHD, January 2009.

What is “Sexting” exactly?

Wikipedia defines “Sexting” as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. The term was first popularized around 2005, and is a portmanteau of sex and texting, where the latter is meant in the wide sense of sending a text possibly with images.

Why is Cyberbullying getting so much attention and why are parents so alarmed?

Cyberbullying is gaining a great deal of attention due to the means in which the bullying element is able to be spread. Prior to digital and electronic advancements, unlike 10 to 15 years ago, bullying comments and activities are now able to be spread quickly and vastly by use of technology. A person can make a comment about another person and in minutes it can be further sent out via texts and email to others and even posted on a social networking site.

Unfortunately, this detrimental information can get out to more people that originally intended, in an extremely fast method and may result in the content being beyond the control of the originator. One must remember that once such information is out there, on cyberspace, it is there for all to see and possibly can remain there forever. There is also a concern amongst parents and schools as to whose responsibility it is to address this issue and how to proactively educate all those involved. Is the responsibility to reside fully on the originator? How responsible is the recipient who sends along this information to others? Thus the debate continues and the NJ laws continue to evolve.

What are the current laws regarding cyberbullying and sexting?

Please go to the Current Laws and Policies section on our website for specifics on Federal and New Jersey Laws.

What is my Child’s school’s responsibility relating to cyberbullying and sexting?

By the 2011-2012 school year, each school is required to have a policy specific to “Harassment, Intimidation and bullying”. These policies will most likely cover the cyberbullying piece and detail their policy, to include reporting requirements.

How do I know what my local school policy is and how do I get a copy?

First go to your local school’s web page and try and locate a copy of the policy. A good place to look is within the discipline area or the guidance department’s web page. If you cannot locate the policy call the school board and or guidance department and request a copy. It is important parents educate themselves as to what the policy itself details and what the reporting order is in consideration of a criminal case.

What can happen if my child sends, receives or is on possession of an inappropriate picture that is sexual in nature? I am hearing that they could be labeled a sex offender, is that really true?

At the moment, legally anyone, regardless of their age, could be charged with possession of child pornography if they are in possession of pictures that are considered lewd or sexual in nature picture of a child. This does include unsolicited pictures, especially if the person does not quickly remove them. However, New Jersey is trying to minimize the punishment and challenging federal courts in recognition of the “sexting” epidemic and its unique challenges in combating and educating those involved.

Do I need to report an incident on cyberbullying and or sexting? And to whom?

Again, please refer to your local school policy for instructions on reporting. If you feel you need more direction outside of the local school, please report the incident to the police. Or better yet, call us and see what we can do to stop the incident/information on going viral…

What signs should I look for if I suspect my child is being cyberbullied?

Here are some early signs (courtesy of www.cyberbullying.org) that a child may be a victim of cyberbullying:

  • Long hours on the computer.
  • Closes windows on their computer when you enter room.
  • Is secretive about Internet activities.
  • Behavioral changes.
  • Is always doing homework on the Internet, but always in chat groups and getting behind with school work.
  • May find unexplained long distance telephone call charges.
  • Won’t say who they are talking to.
  • May find unexplained pictures on computer.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Stomach and headaches
  • Lack of appetite, throwing up
  • Fear of going out of the house
  • Crying for no apparent reason.
  • Lack of interest at social events that include other students.
  • Complains of illness often before school or community events.
  • Frequent visits to the school nurse or office complaining of feeling sick – wants to call Mom or Dad to come & get them.
  • Lowered self-esteem.
  • A marked change in attitude, dress or habits.
  • Unexplained broken personal possessions, loss of money, loss of personal items.
  • Stories that don’t seem to make sense.
  • Acting out aggression at home.
  • Missing or incomplete school work, decreased success in class.

Is there some kind of monitoring I can do myself as a parent?

There are several investigative tools that we can offer to assist with your parental monitoring. These include remote access capturing, updating parental controls on computers and phones and making sure maximum security setting are in place on the various social networking sites.

What can I do to educate myself on cybercrime?

There are many resources on the internet and some of which I have listed out on the resources page for all parents in our webpage. Also, talk to your local schools to see if they are having any parent seminars to further educate yourself. The key is to remain PROACTIVE and not reactive in addressing these issues. Once it happens, it may be too late, but if you can stop it from happening, many serious consequences can be avoided.

How do I know if my child is up to no good on the computer? Or if they are becoming a target of a potential cybercrime including, i.e. cyberbullying, identity theft or a cyber-predator attempt?

There are signs to look for listed below, should you suspect something. However, the key is to be proactive and not reactive. Try to understand and be aware on what’s going on with your child regarding internet, cell phone and other media resources. Should you suspect or simply want to monitor for your own peace of mind and to ensure your child’s safety, there are many software, techniques and other parent controls that Without a Trace can administer, hidden to the user, that would enable the parent to see what your child is doing, to include monitoring all pictures, emails, IM’s and texts on various medias. Let us know if we can help!

Signs to look for of emotional distress during or after using the Internet.

  • withdrawal from friends and activities
  • avoidance of school or group gatherings
  • slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite

Source kidshealth.org, author Michele New PHD, January 2009

Is it true that cyberbullying can effect LBGT (Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay and Transgender) youth differently and if so how?

The quick answer is yes, it effects these youth differently for many reasons. We have investigators that are specially trained and have knowledge to address the LBGT youth in a unique way. Please see included article for further details.

Article Cyberbullying hits LGBT youth especially hard By: Elizabeth Armstrong Moore March 9, 2010.

Iowa State University researchers Robyn Cooper and Warren Blumenfeld author a new national study on how often LGBT youths report being cyberbullied.
(Credit: Jaclyn Hansel/Iowa State University)

We all have coming-of-age bullying stories.

Mine started in junior high, when I was called a “sailor’s dream” by the same boys who ogled me after that glorious summer before 9th grade, when you-know-what finally sprung forth. Then a new kind of torment began, and when I rejected the hot football quarterback, the lesbian rumors flew.

That was the mid-’90s, when hardly anyone even had e-mail. So what’s it like in the age of Facebook, sexting, and the ability to taunt and be taunted 24-7? And moreover, what’s it like for the kids who are actually lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)? (Full disclosure: I work as a volunteer with LGBT youth.)

A recent Iowa State University study surveyed 444 youth ages 11 to 22, including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects and 94 people who identify sympathetically with LGBT youth, often called straight allies. The study found that 54 percent of these youths report being cyberbullied within the 30-day period prior to the survey–either about their sexual identities or for their identification with LGBT people. The next highest percentage is among females, 21 percent of whom report being cyberbullied about their gender, Warren Blumenfeld, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Iowa State University, tells me.

“There’s a saying that we’ve now changed to read, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill,’” Blumenfeld says. In the school’s statement, he adds:
Especially at this age–pre-adolescence through adolescence–this is a time when peer influences are paramount in a young person’s life. If one is ostracized and attacked, that can have devastating consequences–not only physically, but on their emotional health for the rest of their lives.

Cyberbullying is considered attacks that include electronic distribution of humiliating photos, dissemination of false or private information, targeting youth in cruel online polls, and other types of online harassment.
Among the LGBT respondents, 45 percent report feeling depressed as a result of being bullied, 38 percent embarrassed, and 28 percent anxious about simply going to school. One in four report having suicidal thoughts. (Less than two months ago, a teenage Irish immigrant did kill herself in a case that has been linked to cyberbullying.)

“One of the things we found is that the LGBT students really want to make a difference,” says Robyn Cooper, a research and evaluation scientist at Iowa State’s Research Institute for Studies in Education. “They want their stories told. They want people to know what they’re going through, but they don’t want the repercussions of being bullied.”

More than half report being afraid to tell their parents about being bullied because their parents might restrict online access, which (ironically) Blumenfeld says is often the “lifeline to the outside world” for many young LGBT students who have been ostracized by their peers at school.

Moreover, 40 percent of the non-heterosexual respondents say their parents wouldn’t believe they were being cyberbullied, while 55 percent report that their parents couldn’t do anything to stop it and 57 percent said they didn’t think a school official could help either.
“One of the strategies coming out of this study–since respondents expect and want their peers to step in more–is that we should find ways on our campuses to empower young people to speak up and act as allies,” Blumenfeld says.
The study appears in the LGBT-themed issue of the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, due to be released March 15. The ISU researchers say they plan to author additional papers on their analysis from this survey as well as extend their research to a larger national sample to include face-to-face interviews and focus groups.

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