Class is in session, parents, and it’s time for all of you to go back to school! The Internet can be a great resource for your kids’ education and a place for them to interact with kids from all over the world. It also has its pitfalls, however. Some of these pitfalls can even be dangerous. That’s why Attorney General Steve Carter and others are providing tips for parents on how to keep your kids safe while they explore on the Interrnet.
Did you know that bullying can occur on the Internet as well as on the playground? Some young people use websites, cell phones, instant messaging, chat rooms, and blogs to threaten and ridicule their peers. “What may start as a joke, once launched into cyberspace, can be very serious. The impace on the victim can be devastating and even tragic.”
Of course, identifying cyberbullying is much more difficult than seeing the tell-tale physical signs of the type of bullying that takes place in the neighborhood or on school grounds. Parents can’t look for a black eye or torn clothing to know that their child has been the victim of a cyber bully. The damage inflicted by a cyber bully is no less real, however.
At its core, cyberbullying is “sending or posting derogatory or hateful material on the Internet with the intent to harm another.” Unlike physical bullying where bullies can be fairly easy to identify, Internet bullies can maintain some anonymity while having a worldwide audience as well.
Parents, remember to talk to your children about what they are doing on the Internet. What sites are they visiting? Who are they chatting with?
The Attorney General’s office suggests keeping records of any rude or harassing emails or text messages. Do not respond to these messages, however. Instead, file a complaint with your Internet Service Provider or cell phone company about the cyberbullying messages.
“If the cyberbully attends the same school, inform school administrators and school resource officers.”
“If the cyberbullying involves threats of violence, coercion or intimidation, call the police.”
“If a Web site is defaming or mocking a person or group, contact your ISP and inform police to get the Web site removed.”
Teach your kids to tell a trusted adult if cyberbullying happens to them. Also, they shouldn’t open or read messages by cyber bullies. However, they should keep and not erase the messages because school and police authorities may need them to take action.
Teach your kids to protect themselves. They should never agree to meet in person with anyone they meet online.
Parents should also learn the language of Internet acronyms to help keep their kids safe. These acronyms are commonly used in online chat rooms and instant messaging. Here’s a guide to help you know what is actually being communicated by and to your kids:
121: one to one
A/S/L: age, sex, location
DIKU: do I know you?
IPN: I’m posing naked
LMIRL: let’s meet in real life
NP: nosy parent
NIFOC: naked in front of computer
OLL: on-line love
P911: my parents are coming
PA: parent alert
PAL: parents are listening
PANB: parents are nearby
PM: private message
POS: parents over shoulder
SAW: siblings are watching
TAW: teachers are watching
TOS: teacher over shoulder
WIBNI: wouldn’t it be nice if…
WFM: works for me
WTGP: want to go private?
WUF: where are you from?
YBS: you’ll be sorry
For more information about protecting your kids on the Internet, see our previous blog post, “Educate Yourself (and Your Kids) about Internet Safety and Security.”