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Eight Escalating Steps You Can Take if Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats Persists (page 2)

— Norton
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

Send a certified letter

If you've done all you can and the bullying hasn't stopped, send the child's parents a certified "cease and desist" letter. Along with the letter, include computer print-outs of the bullying behavior, such as emails or IM transcripts. Ask the parents to step in and put a stop to the cyberbullying. Willard, who is also a lawyer and director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says certifying the letter proves the parents are aware of their child's behavior and can be held responsible if it still doesn't stop.

Call an attorney

In the worst case scenario, a lawyer can help you consider filing a civil suit against bullies and/or their parents for defamation, harassment or other causes. Sometimes the threat of a suit is enough to dissuade cyberbullies.

Contact the local police

If there's any evidence that the cyberbully's tactics include criminal actions, such as hate crimes, physical threats or talk of brandishing weapons at school, contact your local police immediately. Cyberbullies who post surreptitious locker-room photos of their victims online can also be brought up on charges of child pornography. Make sure to print examples of the offending behavior and pass it on to the police. The police can use your complaint to gather any other admissible evidence from your child's computer, if need be.

Talk with your kids about what's acceptable

Anne Collier, editor of NetFamilyNews.org, an email newsletter about online safety for kids, says to truly stop cyberbullying, however, you have to first know what's happening when your kids are online. Kids are often reluctant to tell parents about cyberbullying or anything else that goes on online for fear parents will only make things worse. Others feel that what they do on the Internet is "private." Williard says that nothing could be further from the truth: "Kids need to know that the Internet is a public space and need to treat it as such."

Willard suggests that you get to know your child's screen names and email addresses and don't hesitate to "Google" (or search) for your kid's online identities. She also says parents should be up front-so tell your kids you'll be checking up on them periodically. And communicate with your kid's friends' parents, she says. Setting expectations not just for your child but everyone else can avoid future problems.

"It takes a digital village to raise a child, these days," she says.

Collier adds that you can draft an "acceptable use policy" or contract for the home computer or other text-messaging devices as well. The policy should address every aspect of venturing into cyberspace, including how long your children will stay online each day. Or what web sites, messaging services and chat rooms are acceptable destinations. Also discuss what personal information they can share online, including photos. "Ask your child, 'What will you do if…?' and then write mutually acceptable answers into the contract," Collier advises. A signed promise to be kind to others online and to report cyberbullying (of themselves or others) could go a long way towards preventing problems before they start.
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