Teenagers should take the effort to educate themselves on proper “Internet etiquette.” This includes the proper use of emails, texts and other forms of electronic messaging. Many negative posts or messages sent online may simply have been sent accidentally or misinterpreted, leaving either the sender, the receiver, or both embarrassed, humiliated, hurt, or harassed.
1. Use Computer Courtesy:
Whether sending an email, chatting in a chat room, or speaking in a forum, it is important to be courteous and respectful of others online. In any circumstance, no matter how simple, Internet users can observe the Golden rule: one should treat others the way he or she would like to be treated. Likewise, just as you treat others with respect in the real world, it is important that you apply these same basic rules online as well.
2. Think Before Posting:
It is important to note that what is posted online today may come back and haunt the writer tomorrow or later in the future. That silly or funny photograph posted on a social networking site may preclude job acquisition for that person years later. Many colleges and employers are now searching social networking sites prior to hiring. Remember that once entered into the Internet, online messages, posts, pictures, or videos, will remain there forever, and can be viewed by a massive, unknown online audience. With cyberbullying, one cannot just turn off the computer and expect everything to return back to normal. Even if the victim disconnects himself from the Internet or other electronic devices, cyberbullying can weave itself back into the victim’s school, workplace, or home environment.
3. Pay Attention to Language Issues:
Improper, inappropriate, or profane language may cause a participant to be kicked out or permanently banned from a forum or group. It is also important to remember that people from other countries may be participating in the conversation and that language barriers may cause issues. In many cases, individuals can make simple errors or typos that can distort their intended message or cast unintended animosity upon delivery. Therefore be aware that mistakes can happen from time to time.
4. Keep Personal Information Private:
Posting private and personal information in the wrong locations can have serious consequences. Identity theft is a rapidly growing concern and divulging too much information could give predators and those with bad intentions valuable information about yourself. Never give out personal information about yourself, your family or your friends, no matter how well you think you know your cyberpals. This includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, school locations and names, and not even which city you live in. Be careful who you send pictures to, as well as monitor and ensure your password safety. When you post your personal information on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, it is best to restrict your privacy settings so that only your friends can view personal information. If private information is posted in a group setting, read the guidelines prior to posting to ensure that such information will not be disclosed to others.
1. Never, ever give your password on Facebook, MySpace, Aim, network, email, or any similar service or cell phone unlock code to a friend. Friendships sometimes don’t last, and that password or PIN can be used against you.
2. Remember your secret answer. When you create an online account, and it asks you to provide an accurate answer to a question you should know ‐ don’t treat it lightly or as a joke. Make sure it’s something you will remember months and years from now in case you have a problem at that time.
3. Do not use passwords based on personal information (your login name, birthdate, address, phone number, middle name, pet’s name, etc.).
4. Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and nonalphabetic characters (symbols) if possible.
5. Change your password often. It takes time and is a bit of a chore, but do it anyway. It takes more time and is more of a chore to try to recover from a hacked account or from identity theft.
6. Never provide your password over email or in response to an email request.
7. Make your own acronym by creating a phrase that means something to you, and group together the first letter of each word. Use numbers and symbols when you can. Make sure the acronym you create has at least seven characters. For example:
• “Last week I fell down thirty stairs” (Lw1fd30$)
• “It’s 3 AM, I must be lonely” (I3amimbL)
• “My boyfriend got me a dog for Christmas” (mBFgm@d4C)
• Use short words separated by characters (d0g%d00r, c@ndystr1p).
8. Do not place a written copy of your password on the side of your monitor, under your keyboard, under your mouse pad, etc. Figure out a secure place where you can store the passwords you write down – or, if possible – never write down any passwords; it is best to commit them to memory.
9. Do not type passwords on computers that you do not own, control, or fully trust. Computers in Internet cafés, computer labs, airports, libraries, or similar public places should only be used for anonymous Web browsing, and not for logging into your online accounts.
10. Don’t use the same password across all of the online accounts you have. Try to use different passwords at different sites, so that one hacked account doesn’t lead to other accounts being hacked.
5. Help New Internet Users:
Everyone was an Internet “newbie” at one time. Many children and teen users that gain access to social networking sites, electronic devices, or the Internet for the first time are unaware about how dangerous these devices can be if abused or used inappropriately. Although it is normal to be excited about connecting with all of your friends and classmates online, please be mindful of the fact that there are others on the Internet that abuse their privileges.
- You’ve been told “don’t talk to strangers.” Well, people you meet on the Internet are strangers. Other than friends you know in “real life,” people online are not classified as friends.
- Never agree to meet an online friend in person. If someone asks to meet you, talk to your parents about it.
- Do not lie about your age so you can go somewhere on the Internet that is for adults only.
- Passwords must be kept secret from everyone but your parents.
- Do not spend excessive time on the computer. You should partake in other activities, exercise, and set aside time for leisure.
- Something you see on the Internet might make you uncomfortable or confused. Tell your teacher or parent right away.
- Do not do anything on the Internet that may cost money without your parent’s permission. Never give out credit card information.
- If you are upset or angry about something, do not use the Internet to vent your feelings. Go to a friend, a relative, or teacher you are comfortable talking to instead.
6. Be Aware of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying, or electronic bullying, continues to be an increasing problem. Especially in many modernized countries, such as the United States, where technology is rapidly becoming an integral part of our society today, more and more people are possessing phones and computers. Kids are exposed to and acquire technology at earlier and earlier ages. With so many more people online, there is, undoubtedly, a dramatic rise in cyberbullying incidents throughout the US, and even around the world. Cyberbullying is actually more common than many teens think. Many teens do not realize that many of their peers around them are experiencing cyberbullying.
7. Educate Yourself About Cyberbullying
It is important, and in some cases required, that schools educates their students and staff on a regular basis regarding the nature, and consequences of, and prohibitions and penalties associated with, all forms of cyberbullying, and bullying, so that constant and updated awareness of the problem is promoted. Education should occur through the attendance of training workshops and seminars, as well as formalized continuing education initiatives for all members of the school community. Educate yourself on cyberbullying prevention strategies!
8. Be An Active Bystander:
Bystanders play a key role in stopping and preventing cyberbullying. Cyberbullies depend on bystanders to support them or do nothing to stop them. The real leaders are those who choose to take an active role when they witness bullying and decide not go along with the crowd.
- If you witness cyberbullying, do not join in, nor stand by idly.
- Document if you see cyberbullying online, and when
- Don’t encourage the behavior, it is easy to fall under the peer pressure, but stand up for yourself!
- Don’t forward hurtful messages
- Don’t laugh at inappropriate jokes
- Tell an adult they trust
- Do not support cyberbullies, stand up for what is right and report cyberbullying cases to reliable sources – “report center”.
- Educate yourself on effective preventative measures you can take
9. Do Not Spend So Much Time At The Computer:
Excessive use of the computer is highly detrimental. Try to limit your computer time to a suitable and reasonable amount. It is important not to lose a sense of reality, especially if you have feelings of pent up emotion or anger, you should not vent your emotions out online. Assign some much needed periods of time to go for a walk, enjoy the weather, or hang out with friends.
What to do if you are a cyberbullying victim:
Many teens who are cyberbullied online are often overwhelmed by the emotional pain due to either the continuity, or intensity of the harassment. Therefore, responding to the cyberbully’s attacks in a productive manner often seems extraordinarily difficult. The anticipatory anxiety often prevents a teenager from reporting the bully. Since the distress seems unbearable, the victim cannot muster up the strength to confide in a trusted adult. Of course, there is always a fear that a victim may be labeled a “tattletale” or a “snitch.” However, if the victim attempts to cope with the bullying without external assistance, the intensity and frequency of the bullying online may increases, which usually exacerbates the pre-existing situation. Victimized adolescents first must realize that they are not to blame for the way they have been treated. NO ONE deserves to be harassed in any environment, whether it is on the Internet or in the real world. Effective strategies can be implemented to help fend off cyberbullies.
1. You CANNOT Just Turn Off the Computer:
Those who do not completely understand the phenomenon often wonder, “What’s the big deal? Why don’t kids just turn off their computers?” However, those who make this statement do not realize that the process is not so simple. There are a number of reasons why “clicking the exit button” or “turning off the computer” simply aren’t viable options for those being cyberbullied.
- First, why should a victim be required to interrupt an online experience because of someone else’s maliciousness? It is not appropriate to blame the victim for another’s aggressive actions. No one should have to turn off his or her computer due to harassment received online, just like no one should avoid going to school because of school bullying.
- Cyberbullying can continue regardless of whether the target is online. For example, a bully could set up a defamatory Web page or spread rumors via social networking sites. Unfortunately, mistreatment still continues and the bully perpetuates his assaults and cruelty, even when the victim is offline.
2. Ignore CyberBullies:
An effective and simple response is to not respond, interact, or engage with cyberbullies. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. It’s natural to elicit a defensive response and attempt to deal some “well-deserved” payback on the cyberbully. Many cyberbullies simply crave attention; it does not matter what type of attention they receive, whether it be positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them the attention they desire. It is similar to a 2-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum to get attention from a parent: once the child’s needs are catered to, he or she will continue to act in the same manner in the future. Do not reply to his or her posts, texts, etc. Along these same lines, teens that experience cyberbullying online are encouraged to keep a log of journal of all their experiences. Note specific incidents with as much detail as possible, including who was involved, where and when it happened, how they responded, who witnessed the incident, and what was done to prevent its reoccurrence. If the cyberbullying is supplemented with bullying offline, be sure to record all of these activities as well.
3. Protect Yourself:
It is imperative that cyberbullying victims take swift action if the cyberbullying incidents continue or escalate in gravity. Teenagers must learn to exercise due diligence in reducing their vulnerability to online aggression.
- Block the cyberbully on social networking sites, emails, electronic devices, and so on. The less contact you have with the cyberbully, the less damage he or she can do. Do not leave the bully un-blocked just so that you can get another response later or to inflict some source of payback on the cyberbully. This is only inviting the cyberbully to continue, and you do not have to stoop down to their level! Block the individual from having communications with you as best as you can.
- Change your emails, screen names, or other usernames that the cyberbully is contacting you via. Take care in giving them out to family and friends whom you know you can trust, so that you will not need to worry about receiving additional antagonizing messages from those who are cyberbullying you.
- Keep your social networking profiles on private: make sure not to add anyone you do not know or do not trust to your profile
4. Get Help:
It is strongly encouraged that cyberbullying victims seek assistance from a trusted individual or organization. Adolescence is a difficult journey on hazardous terrain, and no one should have to travel alone. Technology has only increased the number of pitfalls and obstacles that teens have to face, and teens need guidance to assist them and pick them up when online harassment takes its toll.
5. Hang in There:
When teens are being cyber bullied, it is natural to look for a reason for the torment. We try to figure out what we’ve done to bring this bad behavior down on us. We think that if we can find that reason and correct it, maybe the bullying will stop. This mentality helps us to feel that we harness some control over the situation. But in truth, the cyberbully often has reasons that have nothing to do with us. Many individuals cling to this idea that the targets have somehow brought the bullying on themselves. But with this mentality, aren’t we really stating that the target deserves to be cyberbullied, that it’s their fault, rather than the fault of the person doing the bullying? Cyberbullying is the problem, not the behavior or appearance of the target!
At the time, if you are being bullied, you may think that the world is coming to an end. However, always remember: there are people that love you for who you are. Even if you do not think so, there are many that are willing to support you and will miss you sorely if you depart from this earth. Killing yourself is not an alternative to cyberbullying. If you have suicidal thoughts, contact the suicide hotline immediately! A one-time solution to a temporary problem cannot work. Keep in mind, there are thousands of teenagers that are being bullied online each day. You are not alone in your plight! But stay strong and stay positive.