Ask a Trooper: What to Do if Your Child is a Victim of Cyber Bullying

The following article was written by Michigan State Trooper Mike Sura, who answers questions about Michigan law in a weekly column.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

I remember growing up with a particular kid who was a little bigger than the rest.  He used his size and his words to intimidate other kids on the playground.  He was the playground “bully”.  He spent several recesses in the principal’s office needless to say.  

The thing about this particular kid though, is you could always see him coming.  He wasn’t fast so you could out run him. You could always find a playground supervisor to stand with.  I also found that if you stood up to him he became less of a “bully."  

As time went by, this particular person became not a “bully” but a friend.  I remember him telling me that he didn’t know how to act sometimes and everyone just expected him to be “tough."  He thought that was just how it was supposed to be.  

Now why do I start this week’s article out with this story?  Simple, I had the opportunity to face this person, see him, and eventually confront him.  Kids today do not always have this ability.  Kids and adults today deal with what is known as cyber bullying or cyber harassment.

Cyber bullying is bullying that occurs online, often through text messages, instant messages, emails or social networks.  

Cyber bullies can be any age.  It is easy to hide behind a computer or electronic device and send hurtful messages or intimidating threats.  Younger kids can bully older kids.  Cyber bullying can be just as hurtful as other types of bullying and in some ways can actually be worse.  

Cyber bullying is not limited to just the playground.  It is not contained to a specific area.  It can occur any time you’re online, even in your own home.  Also, sometimes the bully can remain anonymous which in turn can make the person harder to stop.  

Some examples of cyber bullying are writing derogatory messages on line, through video games, instant messages, and texts, posting derogatory messages on social media outlets, posting or sharing derogatory pictures on the internet, and creating a fake profile to humiliate another person.  Cyber bullying can create doubt, cause depression and be embarrassing to endure. 

So what do you do if your child is a victim of cyber bullying?  

Here are some tips to help.  One is be involved with your child.  Monitor their activity and text messages.  It is important to make sure your child is not being bullied just as much as it is to make sure they are not bullying someone else.  Do not reply to a bully.  Most are looking to scare, intimidate, hurt, or embarrass you.  Responding to them lets them feel as if they have power or control over you.  Sometimes if you ignore the problem it will go away because the person is not getting the response they want.  If the problem persists though, make sure to keep all the messages that the bully sends.  This will help when having to speak with police, teachers, parents, or other authority figures that may have to get involved.  

Do not be afraid to report cyber bullying, if no one is aware there is a problem, no one can help. Do not assist a cyber bully by continuing the message or forwarding a picture, just because the original post wasn’t created by you does not mean it is any less powerful or hurtful if it is continued.  Use what I like to call proper “Netiquette;" if you can’t say it to someone in person then you know it should not be said at all.  Most important though, talk with your kids and make sure they understand that something that maybe seems funny or harmless may not be.

If you have a questions or comments please email them to askatrooper12@gmail.com, or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4337 Buno Road, Brighton, MI  48116.


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