By Dateline India Syndicate
In 2006, thirteen-year old Megan Meier from Missouri, USA committed suicide by hanging herself after “Josh Evans”, a 16-year old boy on MySpace, who sent her emotionally distressing messages also posted on other online bulletin boards.
“Josh” later turned out to be Lori Drew, Meier’s 47-year old neighbor and mother of her friend. Drew was indicted in 2008 but later acquitted in 2009.
Nineteen-year-old Madhu did not know what to do when she started receiving threatening text and Facebook messages. When the stalking and harassment became intolerable, she stopped going to school, stopped going out with her friends or attending tuitions. She would keep the door of her room locked and even stopped picking up the phone…..
She did not inform or seek her parent’s to help. She was afraid that they would blame her and ban her from using the internet? In fact this is one of the biggest reasons why youngsters don’t talk to their parents about their online problems.
Sexting, sextortion, cyber stalking, cyber bullying, online predators, and slander — many of these jargons did not exist 20 years back. But in the last decade; these have come to pose a real threat to today’s youth – online in the social media or cell phone messaging.
Recent studies show that almost half the youngsters are being harassed bullied, or threatened by text or online. One in five youngsters experiences online harassment on a regular basis. A majority of those harassed by text message are female.
At least 30 percent of teenage girls were harassed sexually in a chat room, the Girl Scout Research Institute discovered in 2002. Only 7 percent told their parents about it.
Even today 64% youngsters do things online they don’t want their parents to know.
Around 37% Youngsters are using social networking sites to victimize and harass their peers.
It is a bizarre situation where most youngsters are getting bullied online, and if not, they are bully- doing all the bullying. 30 percent youngsters use their cell phones to say insulting things to others. Some teens exceed 10,000 texts a month. But in both cases their parents don’t even know a thing about it.
Most parents are unaware their child is being harassed or harassing others.
71% youngsters receive messages from complete strangers online and are approached by predators online. Some 30% of them even agree to meet these strangers face- to- face, only to regret later.
Most of the victims tend to be loners — between twelve to fifteen years of age with few offline friends. They are willing to engage in conversations with strangers. Many of them seriously believe that they are communicating with someone their age, not an adult stranger.
More than half the cyberbullies are not good natured people who have bullied someone in real life, as well as the virtual world. The predators use social networking sites to lure children and distribute child pornography and sexual content.
Nearly 80 percent, teenage girls, and 58 percent, teenage boys talk or text while driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, texting while driving increases the risk of an accident by 50% and slows down their reaction.
Every day, thousands of children skip school to avoid being bullied in school. 43% of students fear harassment in the restrooms at school.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, victims are 1.9 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Most social networking websites require youngsters to be at least 13-years old, and sometimes even 18, to create an account. But in most cases, children pretend to be older to open accounts on these websites.
Parents can help girls find safe sites and chat rooms to stay safe on the Internet. Youngsters should not give their name, age or agree to meet someone they have only befriended online.
Ask your children about what they do online, who their friends are, and if they have made any new friends. Set clear rules about what they are allowed and not to do online. Make sure that children do not post photos or open accounts without your permission.
Make children feel comfortable to tell you what all they do online or if anyone is buying them. You can teach your children to use social networking websites safely and make sure that they do.
Remind your children never to share their passwords with anyone – not even friends. Anyone with their password can post embarrassing information and land them into trouble.
Make sure they don’t hesitate to tell you if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable, hurts or scares them online. Above all, make it clear that you won’t punish or ban them from the Internet
WHAT YOUNGSTERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CELL PHONES:
1. A text message — even private, can be forwarded to anyone
2. Photos, meant for one person to see, can be forwarded and re-posted
3. Conversations by text message are used as evidence by police
WHAT YOUNGSTERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE INTERNET:
1. Nothing said or done online is private- anyone in the world can access anything posted online.
2. Anything posted on the Internet stays forever- online information and images can be copied and posted anywhere else.
3. Videos and pictures, once posted cannot be deleted
4. Schools and future employers can access your Facebook profile for a background check
5. Your online reputation is worth protecting
A FEW TIPS TO STAY SAFE ONLINE:
• Only “friend” people online you know personally.
• Only confirmed friends should see your posts, photos, and videos.
• Never post a picture or write anything about social media, email or text messages—that you wouldn’t want the world to see.
• Never share your cell phone number, e-mail address, home address, hometown, school name, or post any such information on the social media that a stranger could use.
• Anyone you meet online may not be who they say they are. More often people are not truthful about their identity online and can pretend to be someone else. Youngsters should avoid meeting people that they just met online– face-to-face.