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Internet Safety for Teens (page 2)

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Jul 22, 2013

Cyber-bullying

Bullying, defined as aggression on a continual basis between peers where one has a power advantage over another, is common among children and adolescents. Cyber-bullying involves using electronic communication to:

  • put others down. 
  • play pranks. 
  • share personal information publicly 
  • stalk someone. 
  • commit other overt attacks upon a person.

Teens who cyber-bully may feel that cyberspace is an impersonal place to vent, and, therefore, consider it less harmful than face-to-face bullying. However, cyber-bullying can be very destructive. For example, middle school teens may start a poll with their classmates and cast online votes for the ugliest girl in the school. In an incident in Japan, cell phone photos were taken of an undressed overweight boy in a locker room and e-mailed to his peers. Also, death threats or hateful words travel easily through cyberspace in e-mails or cell phone calls from apparent strangers.

Recent research on nearly 300 students from three junior high schools reveals some alarming facts about cyber-bullying:

  • 22% of teen males and 12% of teen females committed acts of cyber-bullying. 
  • About half of cyber-bullies had admitted to using electronic devices to harass someone three or more times. 
  • 25% of teens reported being victims of cyber-bullying. 
  • Over half of students knew of someone who had been cyber-bullied. 
  • Although 64% of students believed that adults in school would try to stop the cyber-bullying, only about 30% of teens who knew about it happening would let an adult know about it. Females were more likely to tell adults than males (Li, 2006).

Solutions: Ways to Keep Your Teens Safe

The following research-based tips can help you to keep your teens from being victims or perpetrators of online sexual solicitation and cyber-bullying:

  • Keep computers with Internet access in a centralized location in the home, not in your childs bedroom. 
  • Educate your teen about potential dangers of online communication and help them to role play effective ways to respond to online sexual solicitation. 
  • As a parent, you can learn about Internet use from older teens. And, because teens are often more likely to learn from older teens than from their parents you can, in turn, ask those older teens to pass safety information to younger teens. 
  • Encourage your teen to report incidents of online sexual solicitation or cyber-bullying to adults and reinforce their beliefs that action will be taken in response to the event. 
  • Set a family internet policy. Define the ground rules for internet such as scheduled times, permissible websites, and limiting online communication to familiar peers. 
  • When setting Internet use rules, consider how vulnerable your child might be to online solicitation/cyber-bullying. Base your decision on his or her life circumstances as well as age and stage of development. For example, rules for Internet use for children should be more restrictive than those set for adolescents. 
  • Encourage your teen to be involved in face-to-face activities as alternatives to interaction on the Internet. Youth who are vulnerable, lonely, and low on social skills are most likely candidates for excessive Internet use, increasing the risk for exposure to cyber-bullying and online sexual solicitation. 
  • Get access to "parental block" software that protects your child from exploring websites that you find inappropriate. There are many options you can find by simply typing in "Internet parental blocks" in a search engine (for example, Google) 
  • Check your childs Internet use computer history. (Visit the following website for further information: ) 
  • Because they value privacy, be prepared to detect teens infractions of "family Internet policy" (for example, teens can erase their history of websites visited) and setting appropriate limits and consequences.

Parents must be alert to the way their children use electronic communications. Talk to your children about the risks involved. Although there is a big scary cyberworld out there, the family and home can and needs to be a safe haven for children and teens.

Resources on Internet Safety for Parents

http://www.cybertipline.com/

http://familyinternet.about.com/cs/internethelp/a/blhistory.htm

http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=207

http://www.wiredsafety.org/

Popular Social-Networking Sites for Teens (for parents & teens to look at together)

MySpace.com

Facebook.com

HI5.com

Tagged.com

Imbee.com

LiveJournal.com

Bebo.com

MyYearbook.com

Friendster.com

Spaces.MSN.com

Xanga.com

Resources on Internet Safety for Teens

http://www.safeteens.com/

http://www.safekids.com/

http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html

References

Dewey, L. (2002). Girls online: Feeling out of bounds. Camping Magazine, September/October, 48-50.

Li, Q. (2006). Cyberbullying in schools: A research of gender differences. School Psychology International, 27, 157-170.

Mitchell, K.J., Finkelhor, D., & Wolak, J. (2001). Risk factors for and impact of online sexual solicitation of youth. JAMA, 285, 3011-3014.

Ybarra, M., Leaf, P., & Diener-West, M. (2004). Sex differences in youth-reported depressive symptomatology and unwanted internet sexual solicitation. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 6, no pagination specified.

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