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Cyber Bullying

In recent years, more of our teens have embraced the use of the internet as well as other technologies to socialize. Unfortunately, there has been an increase of reports of teens using the internet or cell phones to send or post harmful and cruel text or images.  Cyber bullying is being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material using the internet or a cell phone.  Most studies show that at least a third of teens have been cyber bullied.  Both girls and boys are likely to be both victims and offenders of cyber bullying.  A cyber bully may be familiar or an online stranger.  Many times, cyber bullying is related to in-school bullying such that the student that is victimized at school is also being bullied online.  Often, cyber bullying involves relationships, especially relationships that go awry or break up.  Cyber bullying may also be based in hate or prejudice – bullying others because of their race, religion, obesity or sexual orientation.   Unfortunately, many teens think cyber bullying is entertaining; a game to hurt other people. 

The victims of cyber bullying experience the same long-term, psychological harm of face-to-face bullying.  This includes low feelings of self-esteem, sadness, depression, anger, school failure, school avoidance and in rare cases, suicide.  The online communications can be extremely vicious and there is no escape.  The victimization is ongoing, 24/7. There are many types of cyber bullying and these include:

  • “flaming” - - online fights in real  time where angry, rude arguments ensue and many times with vulgar language
  • “trickery” - - tricking someone to reveal personal information and then sharing that information with others
  • “cyber stalking” - - sending offensive, harmful, and sometimes threatening messages
  • “impersonation” - - pretending to be someone else and then breaking into another’s account and posting damaging or embarrassing information.

Parents have an obligation to responsively manage their children’s internet use.  First and foremost, keep the computer in a public place and supervise its use.  Tell your children that you may periodically investigate their sites or review their personal communications.  Talk to your child about never posting personal contact information, intimate personal information, or provocative sexually oriented material.  Finally, make joint internet use management agreements with the parents of your children’s friends; such as the amount of time they can spend online, what activities and sites are approved and a mutual agreement to monitor and report. 

Talk to your children about our family’s values and ethics regarding their behavior. Talk to them about the value of treating others with kindness and respect as well as compassion.  Make it clear to them that if they engage in irresponsible online behavior, there will be a significant and undesirable consequence. 

If your child is being bullied online, then save the evidence.  Identify the cyber bully and clearly send a message to tell the cyber bully to stop.  Also, block and filter any further communications to help ignore the cyber bully.  You may want to change your child’s e-mail address, account, user name or phone number.  Finally, if these steps fail, then file a complaint.  Cyber bullying is a violation of the “terms of use” of most web sites, ISPs, and cell phone companies.  The following is a list of possible actions to stop cyber bullying provided by Nancy E. Willard, Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.


Co-Parenting With Your Former Spouse

After your divorce or separation, you and your child’s other parent need to establish new rules and a new kind of partnership based on raising your child cooperatively. Unfortunately, all too often there are “left-over” emotions that interfere with this cooperation. Divorced or separated parents often continue to harbor grudges, feelings of betrayal, guilt, anger, and pain that interfere with co-parenting. Unfortunately, some parents hate each other more than they love their child.

In developing a new relationship with your child’s other parent, remember that it is no longer your marriage. You will be unable to relate to your former spouse in the same manner that you did while you were married. This relationship is new and has to be built from the ground up. Remember: Your purpose is to work together and to do what is in your child’s best interest. In this new relationship, keep the following in mind:

  • Make important decisions jointly.  Decisions like deciding to enroll your child in a particular school, when to begin music lessons, and whether to refer your child for psychological counseling are important decisions and ought to be made jointly.  Of course, you will not always agree with your ex-spouse’s opinions, just be open to frank and honest discussion of the issues. 
  • Honor legal arrangements and agreements.  When co-parenting fails, often parents remain angry and one of the foremost reasons for this anger is reneging on prior legal agreements.  For instance, keeping your child beyond their scheduled visitation, failing to meet your former spouse halfway, or making important decisions on your own.  Co-parenting works best when you avoid provoking your former spouse. 
  • Appreciate that each of you have differing styles of discipline and parenting.  Focus on the strengths in your ex-spouse’s way of disciplining your child. Identify ways that your parenting styles compliment each other in positive rather than negative ways.  Make a list of mutually acceptable strategies and discipline choices. 
  • Accept each other’s right to have a personal relationship with your child.  Do not fall into a trap of interrogating your child upon visitation with your former spouse.  Promise not to interfere in non-essential decisions and activities between your child and your former spouse.  Children tend to adjust better if they are permitted to have a personal relationship with your former spouse with “no strings attached.”
  • If you are too angry with your former spouse to speak and communicate with written notes or e-mail, hold off sending an angry letter or e-mail until you have calmed down, read it again, and then send it. Further, avoid discussing information about your child with your former spouse within earshot of your child.  Talk when you have free time and privacy. 
  • When “left-over” emotions interfere with your ability to co-parent, then GET HELP!!!  Often, a third party and disinterested individual can help you sort out your negative emotions and feelings and “stop” left-over from your marital relationship what is indeed in your child’s best interests.

The data and research on a child’s adjustment post-divorce and separation is quite clear regarding the amount of conflict that exists between parents.  Quite simply, the more conflict that exists, the less well your child adjusts and adapts.

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