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Cyberbullying

With the school year now upon us, the police department will be seeing more and more complaints regarding harassment in general and cyberbullying specifically.

Cyberbullying is bullying or harassment through the internet or other technologies such as social media sites or instant messaging services. It is a significant problem because it can quickly spiral out of control. One embarrassing picture or comment can quickly spread to many people in a very short period. Cyberbullying is extremely devastating for victims because there is nothing the victim can do, nor is there anywhere they can go, to escape the harassment.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has many resources online that deal with cyberbullying. According to information taken from the NCMEC website, the following signs might indicate your child may be the victim of cyberbullying:

• Avoids the computer, cell phone and other technological devices or appears stressed when receiving an e-mail, instant message or text message.

• Withdraws from family and friends or acts reluctant to attend school and social events.

• Avoids conversations about computer use.

• Exhibits signs of low self-esteem including depression and/or fear.

• Has declining grades.

• Has poor eating or sleeping habits.

Unfortunately, bullying is often times viewed as a rite of passage for young people. However, bullying in today’s modern society is much different from the bullying that happened on the school playgrounds 30 or 40 years ago. As previously stated, victims of cyberbullying cannot escape the devastating social and emotional impacts that 21st century bullying activity can have.

It is important we all have honest discussions with our children about bullying.

Your child should have a plan to help them if they ever are the victim of cyberbullying or any other type of bullying behavior. Your child needs to know where they can go for help and how they might help others who may be victims. If bullying activity is occurring at school, or connected to school activities, reach out to the school and let them know what is happening. Learn what the school’s policies are on bullying and seek their help.

It is okay for you as a parent, or grandparent, to monitor your child or grandchild’s activities on the internet or via their cellular telephones. Your child may be reluctant to tell you they are being bullied but you may be able to catch this activity by paying attention to the messages your child is receiving. If your child is being harassed, it is important to intervene quickly so this activity can be stopped before it becomes too much to handle.

The Marshalltown Police Department is available to assist you should you, or someone in your family, become the victim of cyberbullying. For more information about these issues, please contact me via telephone 641-754-5771 or email (mtupper@marshalltown-ia.gov).

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Michael W. Tupper is the Marshalltown Chief of police.

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