By North Miami Beach Chief of Police William “Bill” Hernandez, MSM
Today’s generation of children and adolescents are growing up immersed in a steady flow of media. Research has shown that:
- Almost 75% of teens own a smartphone where they can access the Internet, watch television and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). Mobile apps allow photo-sharing, gaming and video-chatting.
- 25% of teens described themselves as “constantly connected” to the Internet.
- 76% of teens use at least one social media site. More than 70% of teens maintain a social media portfolio of several selected sites including, as indicated by rates of use in the PEW survey: Instagram (52%), Snapchat (41%), Twitter (33%), Google+ (33%), Vine (24%), Tumblr (14%), and other social media outlets (11%).
Hence, as more of life has become digital and online, bullies have gone there too. According to the Common-Sense Media report, the indirect nature of the Internet allows kids to be mean, because of the faceless power that the screen builds in, and being online also removes the empathy that face-to-face contact creates. The hurtful actions of a cyberbully can reach a child and/or teenager anytime he or she uses a smartphone or computer, and the bullying messages can also spread virally through the Internet to many other people at school or in the community, making this type of bullying potentially very embarrassing and lasting.
It can be challenging for parents to figure out if your child is being victim of online bullying. As with all childhood changes from usual behavior, we recommend that anything that is extreme and interfering with home, school and friends warrants further review. Furthermore, look for subtle signs or change in behavior:
- Not wanting to go to school
- Becoming upset after using the computer or cell phone
- Seeming more sad, withdrawn, or moodier than usual
- Avoiding questions
Studies show kids who bully may have similar signs, but you may notice unusual computer activity such as switching screens when you walk in or multiple log-ins that you do not recognize.
Ross Ellis, founder and CEO, Love Our Children USA, advised parents to take all threats any child tells them about seriously. It is very important to evaluate all threats a child informs you of to determine the level of intensity and how much danger your child may be in. What should parents do if their child is being bully?
- Save all e-mails, instant messages, and texts
- Try to talk to the other parents and determine what may be occurring
- Talk to the school staff and be prepared to help if school staff are not sure how to get involved
- Call the police if the situation seems to place your child in serious danger with a significant threat, and/or the other parent will not help you.
Any child spending time online is at risk for being bullied. Teens may think they know all about today’s media, but they may not know enough about viewing and interacting with media safely and wisely. Therefore, we recommend you help your children balance their online and offline lives.
To learn more about the City of North Miami Beach Police Department, please visit www.citynmb.com. For emergencies, please dial 9-1-1 and all other non-emergencies, please call (305) NMB-POLICE or (305) 662-7654.