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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Trading Sticks and Stones for Internet and Cell Phones:
What Families Should Know about Cyberbullying
With advances in technology, everyday actions become more convenient. After all, when is the last time you actually got up from your seat to change the channel on the television, or wrote someone an actual letter? Remote controls and e-mail are a just a drop in the electronic bucket when it comes to technological conveniences.

Today most people have the convenience of a phone in their pocket, and many others do their shopping and banking from home. Computers and assistive technology have allowed for great advances in home and school—particularly in special education.

Unfortunately, negative things are also advanced by technology—like bullying. According to a survey conducted by the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens had been victims of cyberbullying in the last year. According to NCPC cyberbullying is “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”

Examples include:
  • Sending threatening texts
  • Stealing a person’s password
  • Posting pictures of someone without approval
  • Pretending to be someone else while online
  • Harassing someone through a social networking site
In August, the Missouri General Assembly passed a measure that requires school district anti-bullying policies to include cyberbullying and electronic communications. But much cyberbullying happens outside of schools.

Unlike traditional bullying—that typically happens during school hours—cyberbullying can occur 24 hours a day, giving the recipient no reprieve from the stress it can cause.

Traditionally, bullying victims are more common among children with disabilities and special needs. Those who talk, act or think differently are considered easy targets to bullies.

Although there has only been limited research on the subject to this point, students with less visible disabilities tend to get the larger brunt of the harassing compared to those with visible physical challenges. This is believed to stem from the fact that children (as well as some adults) have a harder time understanding differences they cannot see.

In addition, other research shows that some students with certain disabilities may be more likely to be bullied, as well as bully others.

This means that all parents should be vigilant about monitoring their child’s Internet and electronic device usage so that any cyberbullying is revealed—both if a child is being bullied or bullying another.

Some helpful tips for parents/guardians:
  • Keep the computer in a high-traffic room in the house
  • Educate children on cyberbullying
  • Stay updated on technologies and how they are being used
  • Participate in open communications with your child
As with traditional bullying, there are methods that can be applied to decrease or prevent cyberbullying:
  • Block the bully’s message electronically
  • Do not seek revenge to “get back” at the bully
  • Never share passwords
  • Report any bullying to Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • Keep a record of cyberbullying incidents
The conveniences of today’s technology have both positives and negatives. Although many tasks are now much easier, they also require much more vigilance and precaution.
student at computer
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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