An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Officials try to get in front of cyberbullying

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erica Crossen
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Just in time for the new school year, a law has been signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn that further protects children from the persistent problem of cyberbullying.

"Bullying has no place in the state of Illinois," Quinn said in a state press release, "Every student should feel safe from harassment, whether that's in the school hallways or when using the internet or a cell phone. In our technology-driven age, bullying can happen anywhere. This new law will help put an end to it."

Cyberbullying is a growing problem and the motivation for any type of bullying behavior can be a result of a number of things including trying to find acceptance, retaliation or related to ethnicity, culture, religion, physical characteristics, or a backlash after a ruined relationship.

"It is important that parents talk with their children and address the topic of cyberbullying with them, even if your child does not mention any problems," said William White, the Family Advocacy Outreach Manager at 375th Medical Operations Squadron.

"Children may suffer in silence and feel ashamed if he or she is the victim of a cyberbully, and may try to keep the incident a secret. Cyberbullying is a threat to the psychological well-being of children throughout the world," White said.

"If your child is being bullied your first step as a parent is to speak with your child's teacher and principal."

The school is legally responsible for their students' safety.  The Illinois state school code prohibits bullying through written or electronic media and the school district has the right to suspend or expel students who cyberbully a student or school employee.

"When dealing with bullies in school, I expect them [the school] to take the necessary actions to stop it," said Nicole Wilcox, a Scott resident and mother, "I would also hope the school holds assemblies on the importance of how bullying can affect someone and why it's wrong to mistreat people."

Wilcox said she hopes a school would also ban access to social media during school hours, as it is not something students need to learn.

Just as cyberbullying transcends school grounds, it may occur in after-school activities as well. The Scott AFB Youth Center is also working to tackle this concern.

 "We use techniques to help youth learn healthy ways to solve problems and relate to others," said Kelly Calloway, 375th Force Support Squadron's Scott Youth Programs chief.

"We advocate for positive role models for youth, regardless of role."

"Children have been bullying each other through the ages.  However, today's generation has been able to use technology and social media to expand their reach and the extent of their harm," said White.

Calloway said it is essential to keep the lines of communication open with not just your child, but their extended support system in their teachers, coaches, youth center staff, and administrators to stop bullying.

Anyone the child or teen is around can directly affect the way they learn to handle situations and know what to do when a peer attacks them online.

"It is essential parents educate their children about appropriate online behaviors and monitor their child's online activities," said White.

White is also a parent of a middle school and graduating high school senior, and he draws from practical experience how to tackle these issues as well. He emphasizes creating open communication between a child and their parent, so the child knows where to turn to if and when they are targeted by an online bully.

"Parents should reinforce positive morals and values that are taught in the home about how others should be treated with respect and dignity," said White.

One tool from Youth Programs for parents and children is a new online program that will be introduced in October for ages nine and older called Military Youth Parents Online Safety Hub, or MYPOSH. The idea behind it is to encourage participation and support for parents and youth while using the Web. There will also be a teen-dedicated group called MYPOSH teen for 13-18 year olds and their parents.

Through resources provided by the Boys and Girls Club and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a program called Netsmartz will be incorporated into the MYPOSH with guest speakers for parents.

Netsmartz teaches Internet safety skills that cover the topics of cyberbullying, online personal safety, and the ethical use of the Internet, delivered through appealing multimedia activities within the program.

"Parents need to be aware that cyberbullying may involve various media, including personal computers and cell phones; and the consequences of cyberbullying are no less significant for a child's development than those of traditional bullying; being a victim of cyberbullying has been associated with increased levels of emotional distress, social anxiety, and low self-esteem," said White.

In most cases the perpetrators of cyber-bullying are other adolescents, often acquaintances or co-students of the victim; moreover, there is a high ratio of adolescents who are both victims and perpetrators.

"I would encourage parents to educate themselves on practical measures on Internet safety which serves as one of the most effective measure against cyberbullying," said White, "The best tack parents can take when their child is cyberbullied is to make sure there child feels safe and secure, and to convey unconditional support, document and report cyberbullying."