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Cyber Bullying Prevention tips for Teenagers

*The emerging generation of online users and the pitfalls of danger associated with it*

Computers with the Internet and Mobile Phones are an increasing trend that has provided teenagers with mostly positives. It's now easier to keep in touch with friends, find information for assignments and play virtual games. But we still need to be careful and be aware of the dangers when online.

With the rapid increase in the introduction of computers most of Australia's younger generation have access to a computer, whether it is at home, school, in the workplace or at the local library. It is now a regular occurrence, especially with the introduction of laptops, meaning many homes have more than one computer.

Due to the introduction of 'pre-paid' mobile phone cards nearly every high school student in Australia owns their own mobile phone. It's alarming to find that many primary school students also own their own mobile phone. The average age of mobile phone owners, under the age of 18, is 13 years old.

Due to the rise in those who own mobiles and computers a nasty phenomenon in Australia is slowly on the rise, Cyber Bullying. This is where people use electronic communication to harm others. Cyber bullies can use text messages, phone calls, email, instant messaging, social networking sites and web pages to embarrass others. Bullying is known as harassing, things such as spreading false rumours, sending offensive messages, telling embarrassing stories or posting images that would make others uncomfortable. They can also include stalking, violent or sexual threats.

Cyber Bullying that targets Teenagers

Cyber bullying is a variety of things. It is sending offensive messages or cartoons about a person. Revealing secrets told by a former friend, excluding someone from an online group, telling sexual information, or any type of information that is untrue.

Symantec surveyed children worldwide and found that 19% of children have had an experience with cyber bullying or cyber pranks. Which could include receiving messages, images, videos that are intended as a joke or a prank. If this joke or prank is at your expense it is best if you contact an adult or teacher and inform them with all the information you know.

Symantec survey also found that 23% of children have had an encounter with a stranger on the Internet, including 7% of children who report having met someone in the real world from the Internet.

Robyn Treyvaud is an educational consultant "now teenagers even know that if they go - leave the front door, they have to tell mum and dad where they're going, what time they're going to be home. Mum and dad want to know who is going to be there. And it's really no different on the Internet. In fact, there probably are more concerns for parents because of the huge numbers of potential strangers who may do something to upset their child but may not."

"The interesting phenomenon about the videotaping" is a trend that started in Europe "We just had this story in the United States of some girls, cheerleaders, who had a dispute with a young girl and held her prisoner in a house while they beat her up and videotaped it to put on 'YouTube'. And the bizarre thing - I mean, the lack of awareness of these children. Yes, they beat her up and they did this terrible violence during the moment, but it also got them all arrested and they're going to have criminal charges against them. So society is actually well set up to handle things with physical evidence, like video tape." Explains Marian Merritt* *from Symantec Internet Safety Advocate.

Cyber Bullying Prevention Tips

Keep your personal details safe, don't choose nicknames that have your full name, or age and don't give these details out online. If someone that you don't know begins to talk to you ignore them, the best idea is to click out of the conversation and block the user from contacting you. If someone unknown to you begins to ask questions that relate to where you go outside of your online world, immediately cease contact and don't answer any questions.

Try not to use obvious choices such as your pets or partner's names or your date of birth, and try and mix all your passwords up. So that if someone guesses one of your passwords they don't have access to everything. Make them as difficult as you can remember, this way no one can have access to your private information.

To protect yourself from being a victim of cyber bullying ensure that you only add people you know to your networking profiles, only give out your mobile phone number and email address to your friends who you know and trust. Also keep your passwords private and change them regularly to prevent peers being able to access your private information.

Feeling protected is an important part of networking and researching online. Try installing Spam-filtering software such as anti-virus or Internet security software to your computer. Your parents will welcome you for asking about such programs. Try including your parents in on the Internet and what you do, this may help them protect you online without them feeling like they have to check up on you, and ultimately invade your privacy. If you have especially clue-less or technology-phobia parents teach them how to use basic sites on the Internet, this may come in handy if you need their online help one day.

One in five children worldwide have admitted they are doing things on the Internet that their parents wouldn't approve of. If you play by the rules on the Internet there will be no punishment. If you test the boundaries then it may result in you having your Internet connection or mobile phone taken from you.

If you find yourself accessing a website that contains information that makes you feel uncomfortable or that your parents wouldn't like you to look at, close the page and report the link to your parents or an administrator at school. Confiding in parents will ensure that they trust you and don't step over the border of overprotecting by checking up on you. The idea is to inform your parents what you do online and talk to them about it, help Mum and Dad understand.

Don't reply to cyber bullies, that gives them the satisfaction that you received the message and you where actually affected by it. The positive thing about the Internet and mobile phones is, that without a response from the victim the perpetrator can never be sure if they have reached the victim. That's the hardest thing about online bullying, for the perpetrator, is they know that they sent it but they are waiting to see the reactions. If they get nothing, they don't know if you got it, so they may send it again. But if they keep getting nothing, then they are not getting the sorts of feedback that they want. They will most likely give up.

Try and limit yourself from spending all your time on the Internet. It's just as important to be in reality, as it may seem to be part of a virtual reality world, the Internet. Limit your web access time, especially so you don't fall behind in schoolwork or family life. Don't stop going to friends house, or going out with them just because you can talk to them online.

It is best not to contact another person if you are angry, even if you're not angry with them. Give yourself time to calm down. Or you may find that if you are commenting, emailing or 'texting' others while you are angry you may be seen as the bully.

Teenagers are becoming extremely upset with applications such as "Rate my Friend" on social networking sites. This application means you can rate your friends from one to ten on a best friend basis. Causing kids to become upset and confused when they are demoted from number two position to six, without any reason. "91 per cent of the social networking teenagers are actually just using the online space to keep in touch with their offline friends. The impact of the online bullying is serious as well as the face-to-face bullying", explains Robyn Treyvaud, an educational consultant

Club Penguin is a site that is perfect for children. It is a very controlled website, manned by operators 24 hours a day. The site has recently been purchased by Disney. The settings are easy for parents and children and extras like chat can be switched off. Children have been saying to Robyn Treyvaud in schools that Club Penguin "Is a really safe place, because there are people watching us, because if you use a rude word, you're banned for the day." You can be banned for the day regardless of if you ask an intruding question without swearing, questions such as "where do you play after school?" will also get you banned from the website for 24 hours.

To stay safe online try these techniques:

  • Never give out passwords, PINs etc: even to your best friend.

  • Keep personal information to yourself.

  • Never send messages or comments to others when you are angry, even if it's not at them.

  • Don't stay online all the time. There is a difference between virtual reality and the actual reality.

  • Don't reply to cyber-bullies.

  • If you've been bullied don't keep it to yourself, inform someone you trust, even if it's not a parent, tell a teacher.

  • Don't delete the messages from a cyber bully, if you delete it, you can't track it. So your bully cannot be punished.

  • Don't meet people you've met online in person.

    Australian Communications and Media Authority have developed a program that is fun and easy to use, it teaches you how to surf the web safely.
    www.cybersmartkids.com.au

    Marian has developed the site www.norton.com/familyresource the idea is to help those navigating the web and the various online risks that they don't understand. Any questions you have can be emailed and the answers are posted onto the website for others to learn from.




    Brooke Hunter

    We would like to hear your stories & thoughts on Cyber Bullying here: ttp://www.girl.com.au/blog/



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