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Cyberbullying Help Tips and Advice

‚ÄčApril: god it sounds like sam had more fun with you then he ever does with me.

Brittany: now that isn't true!!!

April: he is gonna cheat, "so I will have nothing to live for anymore" so im gonna just plan on killin myself sometime soon. I wish you weren't gonna let him cheat Brittany, its not fair to me, but I guess if you want to let him that's fine i'll just start planning on how its gonna end for me, i'm not good enuf 4 him

Brittany: u r good enuf 4 him!

April: he hates me, you hate me, and im going to kill myself and if you send this convo to him in an email like you did the last one, im going to kill myself right now

Dialogue from an adult daytime drama? Scene from a teen slasher movie? No, it's a real instant messaging (IM) conversation between two teen girls who HAVE NEVER EVEN MET IN PERSON! This same type of cyberbullying is happening all over the Internet, on email and on social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Xanga and YouTube.

Wake up, Mom and Dad. Kids everywhere use the Internet and it's not just a benign modern distraction. The Web is being used as a blunt weapon of relational aggression and mass destruction. Sure, some kids use it to find out about Friday's math homework or what time everyone's meeting at the mall. But youngsters often wield the Internet for much more sinister purposes. It is tailor made for aggression. Kids are drawn to its power for spreading gossip quickly, anonymously and to an infinite audience  - a thriving environment for cyberbullying.

The Internet is like the old child's game "telephone," only on steroids. Misunderstandings proliferate. Words can hurt. The Internet inflames that harm.

It starts with online anonymity. You can pretend to be someone else. You can listen to others' conversations behind their backs. You can get caught up in the moment. Because you aren't face-to-face and there's no immediate personal feedback, you might say things you'd never say in person (37% of kids who go online report they've done just that!). This makes it easy to spread untruths and gossip or to talk nasty, because no one sees you. The Internet is a boundary-less environment.

This talk is worse than a verbal rumor; those eventually die out. Kids can cut, paste, print or forward the conversations; consequently, a malicious tale can live on forever. Think of the wound that inflicts on a kid.

Has your child been on the receiving end of mysterious rumors? Does he or she suddenly have friendship troubles? Is he or she moodier than usual? Has he or she stopped hanging out with certain people? Check to see if the Web is the culprit.

Don't be naive. The Internet is here to stay. Eighty-seven percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17 are online.

So, parents, this is a heads-up. Does your child use instant messaging? Has he or she been the target of, or engaged in, cyberbullying? If your kids don't know how to respond when spiteful chat and rumors start, they may do lifelong damage to someone - or get deeply hurt themselves.

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