Virtual violence, or cyberbyllying is every communication activity via the Internet (e-mails, web pages, web logs) video media or mobile phones which serve the purpose of humiliating, teasing, threatening or terrorizing a child in some other way. The aim is always to hurt, disturb or harm the child otherwise, either with text or video messages, photos or calls and unpleasant comments. It can be inflicted by one person or a group of children

What is included in cyberbullying?

• sending anonymous messages of hatred

• encouraging group hatred

• spreading abusive and blunt comments about a peer

• creating internet pages (web logs) which contain stories, drawings, photos and jokes against a peer

• sending other people’s photos and asking others to rate them for certain characteristics

• disclosing personal information about others

• breaking into others’ e-mail addresses

• sending malicious and unpleasant content to others

• death threats

• exposure to contents inappropriate to age

• sexual solicitation

What is the difference between cyberbullying and “traditional” peer bullying?

Virtual bullying is different from “traditional” peer bullying due to its availability (available 24/7), exposure (at home and places which were once safe for children), big audience and many witnesses, anonymity which facilitates the violations of social norms and amplifies the feeling of unsafety and fear in the victim which makes the consequences of such a form of violence sometimes more severe than the violence caused by peer bullying in real situations. Children and youth less easily see and understand the damage their words can inflict, because there is no physical contact between the victim and the public.

How can parents protect their children?

• Learn more about mobile phones, the Internet and basic concepts used in the virtual world

• Agree rules for using the computer and meeting internet friends

• Talk with children and try to understand how and for which activities they use the Internet and the mobile phone

• Teach children not to forward nor comment contents which may hurt someone

• Talk with children about when it is necessary and when it is not necessary to keep a secret from parents and adults whom they trust (with young children it is talking about good and bad secrets)

• Ensure a feeling of trust and safety

• Get informed about setting content blocks on your computer browsers which can filter web pages you do not want to be available to your child

Rules of conduct which protect children on the Internet:

• Never put personal information and photographs on the Internet (chat rooms, web logs, personal or social web pages)

• Never disclose your password to anybody, not even to your friends

• Never answer a malicious or threatening message, but show it to the adult you trust

• Never open e-mails from unknown persons or those you know as abusers from before

• Never put anything you do not want your classmates to see on the Internet or in an e-mail message

• Never send messages when you are angry. Think about how you would feel if you received one

• Always help children who are cyberbullied – not by keeping it a secret, but by informing adults immediately

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