Sticks and Stones

Parents, teachers, and the school administration at large have been able to stop bullies in the schoolyard. However, there is a new breed of bullies and these folks can't do all that much to stop them. As a result, there's a new term out there called "cyber-bullying." It involves computers and digital devices.

News stories keep popping up worldwide on the subject. Bullies identify a victim and send abusive emails, Instant messages (IMs), text messages, spread rumors in chat rooms, online bulletins, make annoying cell phones calls, and now blog.

What's the method to their madness you ask? It isn't always obvious to determine who's bullying whom. These kids are sophisticated. They often use another identity. The anonymity makes this form of bullying so much worse. A kid may never know who did this to him/her.

As advertisers, parents, aunts, uncles, and guardians, we need to be aware of such threats, as well as raise awareness. Here are some quick tips for kids/parents/guardians:



  • Never respond to an unsolicited message on any device; email, IM, bulletin boards, cell phones, etc.
  • If a child receives such a message, we need to encourage them to tell an adult about it and save the message.
  • Report the incident to the police, as well as where it happened: the Internet service provider, the website, email service and the like.
  • Be careful who you give your cell phone number to. Don't leave your phone lying around. Keep it with you and protect it.
  • If you are on IM or in a chat room, give yourself a screen name that doesn't give away your identity. For example, "bostongrl03" could lead a predator into finding out that you are female, live in Boston, and will most likely have graduated this year.
  • Watch what you write and how you write it. For instance, a kid may have information on a "my information" link on IM. They often scribe song lyrics. I've taken a look at some of them... perhaps they don't quite understand what they are listening to? Maybe they do. Nonetheless, the lyrics can be misleading.
  • NEVER open a message from someone you don't know.
  • Do not respond to a nasty message from someone you know. Ignore it and let people know it happened and where it came from.
  • Watch out for kids with picture phones. There have been many recent incidents of kids taking pictures of other kids while they are changing for gym class or sports. All of a sudden the picture is posted to the Net.
  • Check out this site for further information.

    Let's face it; bullies will always be around. However, it's a known fact that they have moved online. Let's raise awareness, inform our kids, try and get schools involved and educated, and be responsible advertisers.

    I encourage you to read up on the subject. I also wonder what the 800-lb gorillas AOL, MSN, Yahoo! are doing about it. Or how 'bout leading kids' sites such as, and the like? And what kid doesn't use Google? If any of the above mentioned sites have a clear policy, something in the making, or even want to talk, I'm all ears (post to the SPIN board or email me).

    I'd love to build a task force and make a stand on this issue.

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