Our Kids, Cyberbullying and New York State Law

March 11, 2019

cyberbullying mohawk valleyCyberbullying is simply bullying that occurs online over cell phones, computers, or tablets. It can include posting rude comments or rumors about someone online. Also threatening to hurt someone or posting a mean or hurtful video.

According to surveys by New York State, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. Of these, 25% say that it happened more than once and 52% said they did not tell a parent when it happened.

Cyberbullying and Mohawk Valley Schools

New York State has education, social service, and administrative laws against bullying. These laws as a whole are called the Dignity Act. Most are included in education law that applies on and off school campuses. So under the law, school districts must establish policies and procedures to create an environment free from harassment, bullying and discrimination.

Cyberbullying was added to the law to include any form of electronic communication. So schools are required to establish policies on cyberbullying. That means that if your child is being bullied, your school is a good resource for information on what to do about it.

Some of the warning signs that your child is being bullied include noticeable increases or decreases in use of online devices. Also highly emotional responses to messages and hiding the device when others are nearby.

As any parent knows, when the child becomes withdrawn or depressed or loses interest in classmates and usual activities, there is most likely a problem.

What You Should Do If Your Child is Cyberbullied

We checked with StopBullying.gov to find recommendations for parents and caregivers if their children are being bullied online. Here’s what we found:

  • The first thing is to notice changes in mood and behavior. Then see if these changes revolve around the child’s use of digital devices.
  • Ask questions to learn what is happening. Find out how it started and who is involved.
  • Take screenshots of harmful posts and other content.
  • As we said above, in New York State, schools are required to have clear policies and reporting processes. Parents and caregivers should report incidents to the school. You can contact the app or platform to have the offensive content removed. And if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
  • Classmates and trusted adults can post positive content about the bullied individual online. Offering support lifts a child’s spirits and makes them realize they are not alone and their ordeal will pass.
  • Get help either from a guidance counselor or mental health professional. Talking their trauma over with a sympathetic professional can ease the pain and help the child move on.

Where You Can Get More Information on Cyberbullying

  • The New York State Attorney General’s office offers a comprehensive list of ways to avoid cyberbullying and actions you should take if your child is a victim.
  • Common Sense Media offers more help for families with tips and advice categorized by age group: Preschoolers 2-3, Little Kids 5-7, Big Kids 8-9, Tweens 10-12, and Teens 13+.
  • We also found on the website of the Family Online Safety Institute a “Family Online Safety Contract.” This is a nice, open-minded start for parents and their kids to talk about behavior online. Parents are upfront about keeping track of online use but also promise to be fair and not overreact if the child tells them about something bad that happened online. We recommend this for you and your children.

Thing is, social media and online conversations are here to stay. We think the best thing parents can do is understand that and maintain a continuing interest in what their kids are doing on their computers, iPad’s, and phones.

Keep it fun and informative by being vigilant. You won’t regret it.

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

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