Cyberbullying Doesn’t Recognize Holidays: Tips to Prevent Online Harassment

CyberbullyingRealLivesLearning that your teenager has been the target of bullies is both heartbreaking and infuriating. The discovery that your child is party to the torment and agony of a classmate, however, can be even worse. No parent wants to believe that a child they’ve raised could be so cruel, but the truth is that bullying is a very real problem. More kids than you might think can be involved in the bullying of their peers, and the practice is not constrained to only the “bad” kids. Even good kids can find themselves swept up in the mob mentality that leads to bullying and harassment. The most effective weapon in a parent’s arsenal is simple prevention. Stopping such behavior before it begins is imperative, especially online.

The Internet has changed not only the way that kids learn and interact with the world, but also the way that they bully their less popular classmates. It wasn’t all that long ago when kids who were bullied could at least enjoy something of a respite when they were away from school grounds. In today’s always-connected world, a group of committed bullies can make sure that the torment is incessant. Cyber bullying is insidious and overwhelming, leaving young victims feeling as if they have no way to escape their tormentors. Making sure that your child is not part of this growing group of cyber bullying teens will require a bit of work and dedication, but it’s far from an impossible task.

Monitor Your Teen’s Web Presence

There is a fine line between respecting your teen’s privacy and willfully turning a blind eye to their online antics. It’s important to provide your child with some semblance of privacy and independence, but it’s equally important to make sure that you’re aware of their habits. Friend or follow your child on their social media sites or have them accept a friend request from a trusted adult. Remember that your teenagers’ brains are not fully developed, regardless of how mature they may seem at times. Your kids need guidance, and they need you to keep an eye on their online behavior. This will not only prevent them from becoming either the target or the perpetrator of cyber bullying, but also ensures that they’re not engaging in unsafe activities that could make them the target of online predators.

Be Conscious of Cell Phone Usage

It seems like modern teens always have a smartphone in their hands. These mobile devices make it easy for kids to stay connected with their peers and explore social interactions, but they also present an almost constant opportunity for cyber bullying. Talk to your teens about how some messages and actions can be construed as bullying, but also make a point of establishing an “open phone” policy. Make sure your kids know that you will monitor their phone use and that any indications of bullying will be met with a zero-tolerance policy.

Talk About Bullying

All too often, parents assume that their teens know what bullying is and know better than to engage in such behavior. The truth is that bullying is a complex problem, stemming largely from the fact that some teens don’t realize that what they’re doing is bullying. Make sure that your teens understand that there’s much more to bullying than simply taunting someone at school or being physically violent. Establish an open line of communication about bullying, making sure that your teens are well informed on the issue. Encourage kids to not only abstain from bullying, but to take an active stance against bullying behavior from their friends and peers.

Consider Your Own Behavior

Just as teens can have a skewed perception of bullying, so can their parents. Think about the language you use during discussions about harassing or bullying behavior. If you’ve held a stance asserting that bullying is the result of “kids being kids,” you’re sending a message of tacit approval to your children. Realize that bullying is more than roughing someone up for their lunch money, and that it’s a very serious issue for today’s teenagers. Online harassment and bullying can have tragic results, and is never just “kids being kids.” Consider the attitudes you’re modeling for your teens and whether or not you’ve been inadvertently sending the message that online bullying isn’t all that serious. Even when your kids become teenagers and seem to disregard your actions and opinions, they’re still looking to you for cues as to how they should react in a given situation. Make sure the message you’re sending is one that openly disdains bullying it all its forms.



NO BULL Challenge Campaign: Get Your School Involved

Bullying and cyberbullying has become a cancer that potentially has a death sentence.

Florida is not a stranger to tragedies related to bullying incidents and suicides among tweens and teens.

The NO BULL Challenge is the largest, youth-led national campaign in America’s history to combat cyberbullying.

Murray Middle School in St. Augustine is home to Girls CircleGirls Circle is a support group for middle school girls. It is designed to foster self-esteem, help girls maintain authentic connections with peers and adult women, counter trends toward self-doubt, and allow for genuine self-expression through verbal sharing and creative activity.

Girls Circle are diligently preparing to be part of the NO BULL Challenge.  This campaign is open to all middle and high school students. (Watch the video ).

Fifteen finalists will be invited to attend the star-studded NO BULL Teen Video Awards in San Francisco.  Our community is behind our students and just making the effort to show your support to put an end to bullying and cyberbullying is a step in a positive direction.

Do you want to know how you can enter?  Click here for FAQ.

Important dates to know for this challenge:
January 15, 2012: NO BULL Challenge Begins (12:01 am PST)

March 15, 2012: Video Upload Deadline (12:00 am PST)

March 15, 2012: Voting begins

April 15, 2012: Voting ends to select top 100 most popular videos

May 17, 2012: 15 finalists chosen from top 100 favorites

July 21, 2012: 8 Winners announced at NO BULL Red Carpet Awards Event in San Francisco

Join me on Facebook  and follow me on Twitter for more information and educational articles on parenting today’s teenagers.

Sue Scheff: Mean Girls Attack Virtually

As many are learning, cyber sticks and stones can hurt your bones deeply and scar emotionally.  As reported on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, renown author and educator Rachel Simmons discusses the need for parents and schools to establish anti-bullying policies.

Although there may be times when authorities, such as law enforcement need to intervene, as in the Phoebe Prince case, the main directive should be from both parents and the schools.  Education is key to prevention.  Be part of the solution and be proactive in speaking out and fighting against bullies and cyberbullies.

In Florida, 5th grader Dalton Reynolds with the help of her mother, who is a teacher, took the initiative and formed an Anti-Bullying Club in their school.  If an elementary student can do this, why can’t teenagers? 

A teenager’s social life is one of the most important things to a teen.  When ugly gossip arises about them, the emotional roller coaster can be damaging not only to their self esteem but to their mental well-being.  As we witnessed in the recent tragedy of Phoebe Prince, the constant stream of ridicule, teasing and harassment allegedly drove her to her death.

Today we are hearing about Facebook groups surfacing that are targeted at insulting, hurting, harming and literally destroying lives of teens emotionally.  Teens are waking up to find themselves on a “naughty list” or even a “wannabe who-e list“.  Thankfully Facebook is taking steps to remove these ugly pages and monitoring new groups as they form. 

Help be part of the solution.  Start an Anti-Bullying Club in your school.  Every voice counts.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Watch video  for more insights on how teens are fighting back.  Read more.

Sue Scheff: Cyber Gossip

gossip1Internet fiction vs Internet fact….

National Cyber Safety Awareness month is a reason for you to take a closer look at who you are virtually.

Many people believe that if they are not online; don’t use Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or other social media that you are immune to what lurks in cyberspace.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. There may come a day when you need employment (or new employment), or want to apply to college (even adults), or simply want to join your local community center. Will someone be reviewing your application? Is your resume perfect for a certain position but you are not getting a call? Do you own a small business and your phones have stopped ringing? What does Google say about you?

Let’s look at another angle. Your child is in competitive sports, or your spouse is a member of a prestigious club, or your parents own the local dry cleaners (or any small business), or you are the president of the PTA, etc. Then there is one upset and/or jealous person that feels you are getting too much attention. Or your child gets the lead in a school play while their child was eliminated?

It only takes a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse before your world in your small little town can become virtually incorrect as you are now accused of malicious acts, even harming your child, being an unfaithful spouse or worse. I have received many emails that this is not unheard of, and people’s lives are devastated from others with intent to ruin your life. Afterall the Internet is a extra-large city with limited regulations and no jails.

Be proactive with your online profile. Take the time to insure your reputation. Whether you are a housewife, a parent, a career professional, a student and others – you are not immune to Internet gossip. Years ago gossip was limited to your own geographically area, now it can go worldwide very quickly. A 20 year reputation can be ruined in 20 minutes with a few vicious keystrokes.

Many Internet readers do not take the time to figure out Internet fact verses Internet fiction. Internet gossip can go viral in a matter of minutes, days, weeks and suddenly you have become someone that has the plague and no one wants to be around you or hire you.

During National Cyber Safety Awareness Month take an hour to build your online image. I posted some tips in an earlier article, Internet image: Tips to maintain your virtual profile and image.
For more info: Read my new book, Google Bomb! The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict that Changed the Way We Use the Internet.  You may also want to consider an online reputation management service, ReputationDefender.

Also read on

Sue Scheff: Parenting Teen – Internet safety and Internet predators

As a Parent Advocate, this is an article that is not only critical for parents to read, but heart wrenching to write.

Every parent knows that today’s teens are at risk if they are not educated on what lurks in cyberspace. Learning to maintain your online image is part of preserving who you are, however the education doesn’t stop there. You continuously hear how college admissions are using search engines to review applicant’s, and employers are turning to Google to research information on their potential employees. What we as parents also need to remember is that Internet predators are still out there and continue to haunt young vulnerable teens, tweens and kids.

Many teens believe they would never fall prey to a predator, especiallly a sexual predator; some teens seem to believe they are too smart to become a victim. This can lead to dangerous situations. Dateline aired an excellent series, To Catch a Predator, which revealed many of these predators are intelligent and know exactly how to lure a child. I was personally shocked at who some of these predators were; educators, doctors, officers, etc.

Danielle Helms, was not only an educated parent, she took measures to secure her daughter’s safety online. However the influence of a sexual Internet predator turned her life upside down. Or should I say, turned her precious daughter’s life into a dark depression. On July 16, 2006, Kristin Helms took her own life after being overwhelmed with what she was living with; the memories of a monster that molested her. A man she meet online, a man that traveled miles to find her, a man that literally took her emotional young life.

Danielle Helms, a mother that will forever be a force and a voice for her daughter, has taken this tragedy and turned it into a mission to help other parents and educators to learn more about this important subject. The Kristin Helms Internet Safety Foundation is part of keeping Kristin’s story alive to hopefully save others.

Do you think this couldn’t happen to your child? Think twice. Here is a statement Danielle recently emailed me:

“My Kristin was a compliant, kind, intelligent, loving and talented teen, and still fell victim to an online predator. When I warned her of the dangers, I did not sincerely worry that it would actually happen to her . . .She was too smart and was not a “problem” child. You may have read that I did check up on her and took her computer away for nearly 6 months when I discovered a prohibited “MySpace” account. Unknown to me at the time, she was already communicating with the predator and used the school computers to communicate with him.”

Be sure to visit The Kristin Helms Internet Safety Foundation for a wealth of information on Internet Safety, teen depression, teen suicide, and take a moment to learn more about Kristin Helms life. Although you can’t hear her voice, she is speaking to all of us. Take notice, learn more and help her voice to be heard! 

You can follow Danielle Helms on Twitter @DanielleHelms. Her strength is amazing!

For more info: Teen Depression, Teen Suicide, Teen Internet Addiction, The Kristin Helms Internet Safety Foundation, Internet Safety Bills and Laws, CatiCares (Teens helping teens)

Also posted on

Sue Scheff: Girl Scouts of the USA and Microsoft Windows Launch Online Safety Campaign

girlscoutsSource: Press Release Today by Girl Scouts of the USA

NEW YORK, NY — 05/20/09 — Are you looking for new and innovative ideas that can help you get up to speed with online issues teens face every day? Maybe your teenager is looking for ways to get more involved with issues that pressure them online daily. If you answered “yes” you are certainly not alone. Girl Scouts of the USA and Microsoft Windows joined forces to create LMK (text speak for “let me know”) — an online safety resource where girls are the technology experts on subjects that are often best discussed at a teen-to-teen level, like cyberbullying, predators and social networking. This girl-led campaign allows girls to share their online concerns with peer “tech-perts” about the issues that affect them while raising awareness about how to keep girls (ages 13-17) safe while surfing the Web. In addition, parents have access to a site specifically geared to their needs, equipping them with the tools necessary to understand and act on the rapidly changing world of online safety.

 For most teen girls today, being online is part of a daily routine. Shannon, a member of the LMK editorial team, notes: “Now we have a chance to teach our parents a thing or two about the real issues we face every day.”

The campaign includes an interactive Web site for girls, as well as an e-newsletter and Web site for adults. Each month, the all-girl editorial board explores a different internet safety topic online and then shares what they learned in the e-newsletter which is distributed to adults the following month. The e-newsletter and parent site are designed to provide timely guidance and also serve as a tool to help families have open and honest conversations about the dangers that lurk in cyberspace. In addition, the girls’ Web site features forums, articles, quizzes, polls and a Question & Answer column from internet safety expert Parry Aftab. The program is open to everyone, Girl Scouts and non-Girl Scouts alike, as well as any adult who wants to learn about internet safety.



While the full scope of online threats, such as cyberbullying, are difficult to measure, we do know that nearly one in six U.S. children grades six to 10 is a victim of online bullying each year, according to the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges. Bullying is not “just a phase,” nor is it behavior in which “kids will be kids.” The repercussions of cyberbullying can be so grave that 14 U.S. states have passed or are proposing laws to make it a crime.

With detailed advice and information about online safety issues written by teen girls, this partnership between the Girl Scouts of the USA and Microsoft Windows provides resources for both teens and parents.

For more information, please visit the Web site for girls at:

Sue Scheff: Sex Talk Online



“My parents have no idea what’s going on or anything. I think parents should know, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff going on.”

– Chris, age 16

On a lazy afternoon, when their parents aren’t around, friends Gareth, Minh and Chris enjoy some innocent fun.

But when they log onto the Internet, what they find in chat rooms is anything but innocent.

“Just stuff like flat out, like ‘I want to have sex with you, I want to **** you, I want to do this, I want to do that,” says 17-year-old Minh, who has surfed the web for about six years.

“She was saying stuff like ooh, I’m touching myself now, what are you doing. It’s like, you know, way out of bounds,” says Chris, 16.

It’s shocking, but experts say it’s not uncommon. According to a new survey, 20 percent of teens say they’ve taken nude photos of themselves and either posted them online or sent them out via email.

“Kids are horny, I mean it just seems like they want to do more of that,” says 17-year-old Gareth.

Parents may feel inclined to simply shut down the computer, but experts say curious kids will find a way to get online. Instead, over and over, starting when they’re little, parents need to insist their kids be responsible in all their decisions- whether on the Internet or not.

“It’s not that you specifically are able to prepare a child for internet and chat rooms but it’s how you connect with your kid and try to prepare them for all aspects of life,” explains psychologist Vincent Ho, Ph.D.

Tips for Parents

Pornography is not merely a fringe-element problem, and addiction to it is not just a stage in life. It is a very real and mainstream problem today. Consider the following statistics from 2003:

The pornography industry made $57 billion worldwide; $12 billion in the United States.
Porn revenue is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises.

U.S. porn revenue is nearly double the combined revenues of the three biggest television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC revenues total $6.2 billion).
Child pornography generates $3 billion annually.
Nearly one out of every eight websites is a pornographic site (4.2 million in all).
One-quarter of all Internet search engine requests are for pornography (68 million per day).
Over two billion pornographic e-mails are sent daily.
The average age of the first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old.
The largest consumers of Internet pornography are 12- to 17-year-olds.
Eighty percent of teenagers ages 15 to 17 report having multiple hardcore exposures to pornography on the Internet.
Nine out of 10 children 8 to 16 years old have viewed pornography online, mostly while doing homework.
In the past, pornography was mainly limited to artwork, magazines and the red-light districts. With the advent of the Internet and cable television, however, pornography has now made its way into our family rooms, home offices and kids’ bedrooms. It is easily – and often inadvertently — accessible by children and teenagers, and parents must work even harder to prevent their children from becoming addicted to it.
The best cure for addiction is prevention. Experts at the Jacob Wetterling Foundation developed the following tips to help parents prevent their children from becoming addicted to pornography:

Place home computers in a central area of the house, not a child’s bedroom or secluded area. Make surfing the Internet a family experience.

Talk with your children about what they can and cannot do online, while trying to understand their needs, interests and curiosity.
Know your child’s password and screen names; they may have more than one.
Set reasonable time limits on computer use, and ensure that your children adhere to the limitations.
Parents (not children) should always establish and maintain an Internet service provider account (AOL, Earthlink, MSN), and the account should always be in a parent’s name (not a child’s). This ensures that a parent can legally maintain control of the account’s use and can access records if necessary. If an account is set up in a child’s name, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain account information without the child’s permission.
You should also realize that children may be accessing the Internet from outside the home, such as friend’s homes, work, libraries and school.
Be open with your children and encourage them to come to you if they encounter a problem online.
Explore filtering and blocking software, which is used to sort information on the Internet and classify it according to content. A major drawback is that some filtering may block innocent sites, while many “negative” sites still get past the filters. Though these programs can be great assets, parents still need to maintain open communication with their children to inform and protect them.
Many parents may suspect their children of being sexually addicted, but may not be sure of the warning signs. Victor Cline, Ph.D., an expert on pornography and its effects, encourages parents to be on the lookout for the following symptoms of sexual addiction:

A pattern of out-of-control sexual behavior

Experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior, and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences
Persistent pursuit of self-destructive behavior
Ongoing desire or effort to limit sexual behavior
Sexual obsession and fantasy as a primary coping strategy
Regularly increasing the amount of sexual experience because the current level of activity is no longer satisfying
Severe mood changes related to sexual activity
Inordinate amounts of time spent obtaining sex, being sexual and/or recovering from sexual experiences
Neglect of important social, occupational or recreational activities because of sexual behavior
If you discover your child viewing pornography or you know it is a problem in his/her life, reassure him/her. Let your child know that while you don’t agree with the use of pornography, you still love them and expect them to do better. Rob Jackson, a professional counselor specializing in sexual addiction and codependency, suggests taking the following four-area approach to prevent the possibility of your child using pornography in the future:

Behavioral – Behavioral approaches attempt to prevent a scenario from developing in the first place. The house and grounds, for example, should be purged of all pornography. Media should be carefully screened for “triggers” that serve as gateways to acting-out. If the problem occurred with the Internet, a filter can be one of your strategies, although it can never replace parental supervision and involvement. Other common sense approaches include moving the computer to the family room where others can easily view the screen, limiting the time on the computer and making sure no one is alone on the Internet, and developing a mission statement that directs the family’s use of the computer and the Internet.

Cognitive – Pornography generates destructive myths about sexuality. Once your child is exposed, it will be critically important to initiate a comprehensive sex education program, if you have not already done so. The child will need to learn what and how to think about sexuality. More than mere behaviors, parents will want to communicate the core values of sexuality, the multifaceted risks of sex outside of marriage, and their ongoing compassion for what it must be like to grow up in this culture.
Emotive – Sex is inherently emotional. Premarital sex has even been linked with codependency, where at least one person becomes compelled or addicted to be in relationship with another. The youth culture would lead you to believe that sex is not necessarily emotional for them – don’t believe it. Sexual relations of any type bond the bodies, minds and spirits of two individuals. At the conscious level, this attachment is largely emotional. Your children need to understand that emotional attachment is often involuntary, and especially when the relationship has been compromised sexually.
Spiritual – At its core, sexual integrity your beliefs with your children, and explain to them the reasons to avoid the trappings of pornography. A strong spiritual foundation can be the best prevention method against pornography.
Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Jacob Wetterling Foundation
Pure Intimacy