Bullying e-mails? Respond off-line
Q: My 3rd-grade daughter loves e-mail, but has been getting mean messages from some of the girls at school, calling her fat. I think it should be reported. Am I overreacting?
A: You are not overreacting. Cyberbullying is a serious problem and studies show that roughly 25 percent of kids in school today have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Unfortunately, girls are more susceptible than boys.
Cyberbullying comes in many forms and name-calling is just one example. Other types include exclusion, rumors, harassment, threats, impersonation, and stalking.
Bad online behavior should be dealt with immediately, and parents can help by stepping in, teaching kids to identify bullying behavior, and taking these actions:
Don’t respond online. Responding to a bully online just fuels the fire. Teach kids to tell an adult before they fire back.
Block the messages. Your Internet service provider can help you block unwanted e-mail and most instant messaging programs offer a block or ban option.
Alert others. If you know the bully, contact parents or school administration and let them know about the behavior. If bullying persists and includes threats of harm, contact local law enforcement.
Learn more about cyberbullying at StopCyberBullying.org.
Kids gambling: Not legal, not safe
Q: I’ve heard that kids are gambling on the Internet. Isn’t that illegal?
A: Gambling is indeed illegal for kids — every state prohibits minors from gambling. While most gambling sites require users to be a legal adult, children can easily lie about their names and ages to meet the requirements and use a parent’s credit card.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s easy for kids to access gambling sites. Some of the most popular non-gambling web sites carry tempting advertisements that link directly to gambling venues.
A family conversation on the subject is the best way to educate your children on the dangers of online gambling:
No payoff. Online gambling businesses make more money than they pay out. Even if a child wins, most sites have very stringent payout verification policies and are not required to pay out winnings to a minor.
Credit ratings. If kids rack up debt online, they could hurt their credit rating — or a parent’s rating, if they use a parent’s credit card. Bad credit can count against anyone buying a car, getting a student loan, or even getting a job.
Addictive behavior. Gambling is addictive. Watch for signs that kids are sneaky about online activities, accessing the Web at night or spending lots of time online alone. Gambling in social isolation and using credit to gamble may be risk factors for developing gambling problems.