Indiana State University released a statement to the National Institute of Health this week that “cyber-bullying” and “sexting” are prevalent in the United States and becoming a common problem for children.
“Research suggests that as many as 25 percent of children in the United States report being subjected to cyber-bullying, which is the use of technological devices to deliberately harass or harm other people through e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, cell phones and online social networking sites,” reports HealthDay a online news source presented by the National Institute of Health.
Parents need to know that children are being harassed on their cell phones and computers, yet it is difficult catching the offenders. Bridget Roberts-Pittman, an assistant professor of counseling at Indiana State University states, “Communication in cyberspace seems more anonymous and seems to require less responsibility on the part of the child committing the behavior.”
The cyber abuse can be just as damaging to children as the bullying done on the playground; however, it can be worse because threats are presented and the child may not know who is threatening them. If you notice a change in your teens behavior, such as their grades slipping, major sleep and eating changes, or reduced communication or interaction with friends – these could be signs of a problem.
This news release also states that twenty percent of teens have participated in “sexting;” which is sexual photographs or conversations sent via text messaging. What these teens don’t realize is this is a criminal act and if caught, they can be charged for distribution of child pornography. The penalty is registering on the national list of sexual predators, and in some states, their name can remain there for up to 20 years.
Many teens are taking sexting lightly not knowing the ramification of getting charged with this crime. Parents should be advised to have this talk with their teens and let them know how they feel about cyberbullying and sexting. Setting limits and providing the teens with repercussions for this behavior is necessary. If the parent can make the teen not feel judged, but let the child know they can come to the parent if they are a target, is crucial to curbing this trend.
There are also software programs available recommended by the Indiana State University report: Spectorsoft or I Am Big Brother are two of many which can help your family deal with these problems. The police should also be brought into the situation to track down who is abusing your child if warranted.