November 17, 2008
Technology has brought us many wonderful and powerful tools. It has enabled us to communicate at breakneck speeds with family, friends and clients across the street, across town or across the globe. You’d be hard pressed to run in to someone that does not have a cell phone. These days due to market competition and how inexpensive technology devices have become, cell phones can be seen in the hands of kids as young as elementary school. The benefits are many; however they pose a major threat to those not looking for the warning signs.
The average home has more than 3 TVs and 2 computers. These computers usually have access to the Internet, yet another of the technological wonders of the last 20 years. The Internet allows access to a world of information right at your fingertips. That information, like everything else can be used positively or to disseminate information that can be harmful to some.
Over the last decade the schoolyard bully, has found a new and much more enticing battleground in cyberspace. With the use of a computer, photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and a cell phone, the typical school yard bully can capture, alter and distribute images that can be harmful, embarrassing and like everything else in cyberspace impossible to withdraw.
These trends have resulted in the creation of special cyber task forces and police units that monitor sexual predators. The issue however is that in many reported and unreported cases the offenders are classmates. Since the ability of finding the source of these “files” can be difficult and elusive, it only makes this form of bullying that much more enticing. For the victims they often find school to be a constant torment of slanderous and harmful remarks as a result of the content or images that are circulated about them. They quickly fall into a dark state of depression and isolation where they see no way out of the abuse. Many cases have been reported across the country where young lives have been lost as a direct result to cyber bullies. The desperate nature of the situation, and the child seeing no way out of the ongoing taunting and harassment, create a state of mind that is unstable and destructive.
Monitoring your child’s Internet use, the sites they frequent, the chat rooms and social groups, such as myspace.com, that they may be listing personal information about others, is the best way of preventing your child from becoming a victim or bully.
Locate computers in common areas of the home, especially those that have access to the Internet. Look for the warning signs of malice. Monitor their browsing history. Install content filtering. Ensure that your ISP – Internet Service Provider has parental locks and safe surf features. Use tools such as firewalls that can reduce the risk. However nothing will ever replace good old-fashioned parental supervision. Talk to your child and if you think that they are targeted or the aggressor, seek professional help. Every child lost to this modern day crisis can often be prevented. We owe it to ourselves to protect them and we owe it to them as well.
Humberto Comellas is President and CEO of ulltium consulting, Inc. www.ulltium.com a technology consulting and integrator specializing in the healthcare and legal market. However, helping kids is my passion.