By MELINDA KAPALIN
For the Star Beacon
The shocking news was re-told around the world in minutes. Once again a young person felt she didn’t have any hope that the bullies would stop tormenting her.
As adults, we have to realize that the fight against bullying and cyber bullying isn’t over.
Schools around the country have been making changes over the past five years to implement strategies and programs that work to reduce bullying among students.
Social justice or bully prevention classes are required and in-service workshops inform school personnel on reaching out to at risk children to prevent bullying.
In this recent case in Florida, the young girl’s mother and school administrators were aware of the bullying and worked to make the school a safe environment.
Sadly, the bullying didn’t stop but continued in cyberspace where the adults couldn’t see it.
Despite the efforts of parents, teachers, and law enforcement, cyber bullying is still a powerful tool for adolescents to use to torment other peers.
Even when parents monitor their child’s social media activities, there are constantly new applications and sites that allow unmonitored communication.
Some of these sites even encourage anonymity and children don’t know who they are talking or texting with. Sites like Kik and ask.fm can be accessed with a smartphone app and don’t have parental controls or tracking and reporting features.
The website www.besmart.com has a review of these new apps and discussions of how the lack of supervision on these sites can be dangerous for children.
But everyday girls and boys are lured to new apps by friends or text messages and then check the sites out without telling their parents.
Parents have to stay on top of the latest web safety tips and know what children are talking about with new sites. Kik, ask.fm, and Voxer are just a few in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Check your child’s phone, tablet and computer to see if any new apps have been installed.
When your children have access to technology, make sure that you have a technology contract with them that defines how the devices can be used and make sure that as a parent, you are the administrator on the accounts.
Cyber bullying is sneaky. It appears without warning, children hide the messages from parents because they are afraid or embarrassed, and it never stops because we are wired 24/7.
If your child is being bullied online or by cell phone, your child might be overwhelmed and begin to show signs of depression.
Signs and symptoms of depression might include having trouble sleeping or eating, losing interest in favorite activities, giving away valued possessions, and talking about death or expressing that life would be better if they were gone.
Take any talk or signs of depression in children, teens or adults seriously and call for advice or help at 1-800-273-8255 where counselors of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are available around the clock.
In an immediate crisis call 911 or seek help at your nearest hospital emergency room.
Parents need to stay one step ahead of their children when it comes to their safety.
Check out our resource box for additional websites that can help you find the answers to questions about technology, cyber bullying and teen depression/suicide.
Remember education and prevention are keys to keeping our children safe and bully free.