When your child is a victim of cyberbullying…

About a week or so ago, a friend of mine messaged me asking for help. Her daughter had become a victim of cyberbullying.

Screenshot from stopcyberbullying.org

Before I go on, what is cyberbullying? It’s defined as when a child, preteen, or teen is targeted by another child, preteen, or teen using the internet, digital technologies, and gadgets like mobile phones.

What happened to my friend’s adolescent daughter was, someone (it may not even be one person) made multiple fake social networking accounts impersonating her. The fake accounts went on to spread nasty rumors about classmates, send lewd messages to male peers, spew all kinds of expletives and bad words… all the while claiming to be her. My friend showed me some samples of the posts and I somehow knew that one (or more) of her peers was behind it. Anyhow, her daughter had become so affected and traumatized that she would come home crying from school. They approached the school administrators but they were not quite sure how to approach the problem. She tried reporting the fake accounts to the social networking administrators to no avail. She was told that law enforcement would have to make the request for the suspension of the questionable accounts. I told her I would ask around because I have friends who are more knowledgeable than I am with regards to handling situations like this.

Thank you to Noemi Dado of aboutmyrecovery.com and Jane Uymatiao of thephilippinebeat.blogspot.com for telling me about PNP’s Project Angel Net, an anti-cybercrime group which aims to protect women and children.

I told my friend that the first thing she needed to do was to make a statement. She was apprehensive. She said it might cause her daughter more pain and embarrassment. I told her she could no longer afford to keep quiet because the bully or bullies wants the child to suffer, and maintaining silence gives them more leeway to wreak even more havoc. She has to inform friends and relatives that there is a person (or persons) who are pretending to be her daughter and that her daughter has no such accounts. Information is always the best ways to counter misinformation. If the fake account(s) can spread lies, the real account(s) can propagate the truth.

My longtime blogger friends Noemi and Jane then pointed me to the PNP’s Project Angel Net, the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Help Desk dedicated to assisting women and children who have become victims of cybercrime. With all the harassment my friend’s daughter was experiencing both online and offline, I felt she really needed intervention. This division of the PNP is surprisingly tech savvy — they know what they’re doing and they have the tech tools at their disposal. In fact they have already helped a number of cybercrime victims. I told my friend to report what was happening to her daughter. She was hesitant because she also knew that the culprit(s) would probably be one of her daughter’s peers. What then? Would the perpetrators be arrested? But they’re only kids!

Honestly, kids can be vile creatures. If this happened to my daughter, I would pursue the guilty party(ies) and make sure he/she/they is/are taught a lesson. Let them spend maybe 24 hours in a jail cell. If they have the gall and the ability to cause such harm, they should be held accountable for it.

You can report a cybercrime online at http://www.angelnet.ph/contact_us.html.

As a parent, I believe in raising tech savvy kids but I also keep tabs on their online activities — what apps they download, what sites they visit, who they talk to, and so forth. Although kids today are a lot more advanced, they’re still kids and as such they are not yet mature enough for certain apps and online activities. The gadget isn’t a nanny, it’s merely a tool that can help you become informed and entertained.

Let’s keep ourselves and our families safe and informed.

You can also check PNP’s Angel Net Facebook Page.

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