Recently, the Tallahassee Police Department received a call from a concerned mother because her child was being harassed on-line. The harassment was vicious and even included a fictitious Facebook page with derogatory comments. The world of technology is ever changing and just as parents and law enforcement handle an incident, another one occurs.
The Tallahassee Police Department is committed to the safety of all our citizens, especially our children. Our children are communicating in more ways than ever before, utilizing texting and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and My Space, just to name a few. “Technology has changed parenting. Parents, teachers, and citizens now have to proactively guard against a host of electronic mediums that can harm our children and society,” said Chief Dennis Jones.
Are there laws to protect us from cyber-bullying? Yes! The Florida Legislature enacted an anti-bullying, including cyber-bullying, law in April 2008. The law is called “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act” (Florida Statute 1006.147), named after 15-year-old Jeffrey Johnston who committed suicide after being the object of Internet bullying for two years. While the Jeffrey Johnson Act was designed for schools, Florida law also protects adults who are victims of bullying and/or harassment.
Sociologists around the world debate the cause and resolution to bullying. One consistent answer is that parents must parent! We have to teach our children that bullying is wrong and potentially harmful to others. Parents, teachers, and law enforcement must work together to open a dialog to teach our youth that bullying—especially cyber-bullying is WRONG!
Here are a few tips to help protect yourself or your young adult:
- Only allow Internet access to children or young adults in non-private areas. If they need “privacy”, chances are they should not be viewing the site.
- Communicate with your child or young adult. Make sure they know to tell you about any inappropriate content or bullying.
- Install software that filters or limits access to the Internet.
- Be sure to review the history of computers, texting, e-mails or other social networking your child or young adult engages in.
- Social Networking sites should have a privacy setting allowing only accepted friends to have limited access to the content.
- If your child or young adult has a social network site, such as Facebook, be sure you are a “Friend” and have access to the site.
- Make it a rule that photos cannot be posted without parental approval.
- If you or your child becomes the victim of harassment and/or bullying, report it immediately!
- Instruct your child to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
- Explain that what they read on-line may or may not be true.
For more information about protecting you and your family against cyber-bullying, please contact the Tallahassee Police Department’s Community Relations Unit at (850) 891-4251.