Tag: bullying in schools

  • How to Prevent Cyberbullying – Tips for Parents

    Hopscotch by Dean McCoy Photography from Flickr
    Hopscotch by Dean McCoy Photography from Flickr

    It’s back to school time and most parents are rejoicing that their little angels are going to be at school 6-8 hours a day for the next 9 months. They’re going to be spending a lot more time than their peer group than during the summer so it might be a good time to review your family’s rules regarding where and how they spend their time online.

    I know a lot of parents are concerned about cyberbullying – from a victim and perpetrator perspective. Here are my tips to help parents prevent their child from being involved in a cyberbullying situation.

    1. Wherever your children are active online, you need to be there too.
    Whatever social media sites your kids are using, you need to have an account and be connected to them, to at least be aware of how and to whom they are communicating. There should be a clear expectation that they can’t create a profile on a site or add an app to their phone without your permission.

    2. Address behavior where your child may be bullying others or being bullied.
    Have high expectations for your child’s behavior. They can have fun with their friends, but it shouldn’t cross the line into being cruel. You don’t want them to develop the habit of shooting their mouth off whenever they want online.

    Likewise, be understanding and empathetic if your child is being targeted by their peers for being different. Support them and don’t ignore it. Work with them to decide the best way to deal with it.

    3. Educate your children about communicating with strangers online.
    Each family is free to set their own rules, but in general, I don’t recommend that parents allow their children to form relationships with people online that they don’t know in real life.

    Carter Law Firm's Postcards
    Carter Law Firm’s Postcards

    4. Educate your children about the potential effects of every post.
    Once a post is out there, you can never fully take it back. It will always be on a server somewhere. Even if the original post is deleted, you have no control over whether others took a screenshot or shared it with others before it was deleted. My rule of thumb is never post anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper. The same idea should apply to sending text messages and taking pictures with your phone.

    5. Know how to access your child’s cell phone.
    I generally support respecting your children’s privacy but parents should be able to check their child’s text messages, pictures, and apps if a situation warrants it.

    6. Cut off the bully’s access to your child.
    There are ways to block users and report abusive people on every social media site that I know of. One of the best ways to help a child begin to feel better is to cut off the bully’s ability to communicate with them. If they’re being bullied via text message, consider changing their number.

    7. If your child is being abused, report it to the appropriate social media forum, email provider, or cell phone service provider.
    The terms of service have rules against using their forum to harass others and a social media site has the authority to suspend an abusive person’s account if they think it’s necessary.

    8. Keep a record of the abuse.
    There are times it makes sense to pursue a civil lawsuit or get law enforcement involved. If you do that, you will have to prove that the harassment occurred. A court can be sympathetic to your story, but they cannot punish the wrongdoer without sufficient evidence. Take screenshots of abusive posts on social media sites and don’t delete the abusive emails or text messages.

    If you prefer to hear me talk about this topic, I made a video of cyberbullying tips for parents.

    If you want more information about the legalities of social media, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you need information or advice about a situation involving your child, please contact a social media attorney in your community.

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  • Is That Legal: Day of Silence

    Day of Silence by Megadeth's Girl

    The Day of Silence is coming up on April 20th. The Day of Silence was started in 1996, and it’s a day when middle school, high school, and college students refuse to speak to bring awareness to the “silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.”

    I think this is a great event but, as always, it raises the question, “Is it legal?”

    Does the First Amendment include the Right Not to Speak?
    Absolutely! Your right to free speech includes your right not to speak.

    Am I Allowed to Refuse to Speak in Class?
    Check with your school. In general, they can’t prohibit you from participating in the Day of Silence before school and between classes, but they may be able to require you to speak if asked a question in class. You still have a choice not to speak, but you might lose participation points in class or find yourself in detention.

    Get your school on board in advance. It would be awesome if the administration requires teachers to respect students’ right not to speak on the Day of Silence. The Day of Silence website has a template for cards that you can carry that inform people why you are being silent. This would be a good reminder for teachers if they forget that it’s the Day of Silence.

    Can I Wear a LGBT or Anti-Bullying Shirt, Sticker, or Button?
    It depends. In general, your First Amendment rights include the right to wear clothing or buttons that shows support for a cause as long as it’s not profane or lewd. However, a school is allowed to restrict speech if the school has a reasonable belief that not restricting it will cause a “substantial disruption to the school.”

    I went to a private high school and we had a strict dress code that prohibited all verbiage on clothing except for high school and college t-shirts and sweatshirts. If you have a dress code like this, you’ll have to get special permission to deviate from the dress code for the day. It’s a request worth making. There were a few times in high school when I wanted to wear my lucky shirt to school and it had illegal verbiage on it. The dean of students always approved it as long as I got her permission in advance.

    Can I Wear Duct Tape on my Mouth?
    It depends. The same rule about not causing a classroom disruption with your clothes also applies to wearing duct tape on your mouth. I think wearing duct tape would be awesome.

    A word of warning – if you go to a school where you are the target of physical assaults, you may want to use some kind of buddy system if you’re going to have duct tape over your mouth. If you get pinned to the ground and someone plugs your nose, you could suffocate.

    Can Other Students Have an Anti-LGBT Day in Response?
    Yes.  The right to free speech generally gives other people the right to be closed-minded and stupid. The Day of Dialogue was created as a counter-protest to the Day of Silence, and some conservative groups urge parents to keep their children home on the Day of Silence if a school was observing it. If your school is allowing a counter-protest, the restrictions that your school puts on you should apply equally to them.

    The official Day of Silence website has some additional resources and information. If you see anyone participating in the Day of Silence, let them know you support them, even if they can’t verbally respond. They can still give you a smile or a hug. Your support means a lot.