The National Crime Prevention Council’s definition of cyberbullying is “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person”.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk someone. It has been defined as the use of information and communications technology, particularly the Internet, by an individual or group of individuals, to harass another individual, group of individuals, or organization. The behavior includes false accusations, monitoring, and the transmission of threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sexual purposes, and gathering information for harassment purposes. The harassment must be such that a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would regard it as sufficient to cause another reasonable person distress.
Alexis A. Moore is the president and founder of Survivors in Action, a national non-profit advocacy group. She is donating 100% of proceeds from her new book, A Parent’s Guide to Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying to create a much needed victim resource and to assist victims. We had the privilege of interviewing Alexis and asking her some important questions about teens as victims and perpetrators of cyberstalking and cyberbullying.
Evelyn Block: With teens using social networking 24/7, what are parents’ greatest concerns?
Alexia A. Moore: Parents are concerned that their teens don’t know who they are communicating with. Since so many times teens are connecting with others from around the globe that they have never met in person, it is really easy for predators to engage teens who are eager to connect online and build their social networks.
EBB: Since teens are so secretive, how can a parent even know if their child is being cyberstalked or cyberbullied?
AAM: The number one way remains behavioral changes. Sometimes parents feel guilty as they are busy trying to keep up with demanding work and parenting schedules that have them going in many directions. Far too often parents say that they wrote off the behavior change as a typical teen behavior. Early detection is vital so communicating with your teen even if they don’t want to talk is very important. Engage parents, engage educators, counselors, coaches- the more we engage and make it easy for our youth to talk about the subject the easier it will be for them to reach out rather than the tragic alternative –taking their life or running away.
EBB: What can a parent do?
AAM:Engage! I can’t say this enough times. Simply nagging as parents are supposed too, lol- get involved with your teen on the way home from school or work or while doing the laundry or watching TV. Talk about cyberbullying, talk about cyberstalking- you may hear more than you bargained for so be prepared to have a reaction that is not startled, rather confident and go be frantic and upset in the privacy of your bedroom because your teens need your strength and courage in your response.
EBB: What should a parent do if the teen does not want the parent to take an action?
AAM– Parents are responsible for their child until they reach the age of 18. Parents don’t like to be the nagging mom or the intervening Dad; it’s not cool. However, a parent has the job of watching out for their kids if they suspect their child is being bullied by addressing it first with the child and then reaching out to experts at the schools – counselors, principals learning more about the problem is always a good thing. A teen who is bullied is already ashamed and embarrassed so parents don’t want to make them feel worse. However doing nothing is not the solution. Being proactive, using tact and being aware that the teen is embarrassed and ashamed already- so what the parent does in their actions is also critical so parents should reach out for help from experts. If your school doesn’t have a counselor for you to turn to, turn to a professional yourself and ask them for help and to discuss cyberbullying and cyberstalking with you as well as with you and your child. Survivors In Action has a list of volunteers who are psychologists who are working pro-bono with parents who may need some guidance and I know that this appears to be the growing trend. The more awareness generated, the better chances parents will have finding counselors and experts to turn to for help.
Next: Part 2: The three most important things parents should tell teens about cyberstalking and cyberbullying