MORRISTOWN, NJ - As a new school begins, Deirdre's House in Morristown urges parents to have important discussions with their children to prevent cyber-bullying.

The Morris School District has a tough policy on cyber-bullying, harassment and intimidation. As stated in the student handbook, cyber-bullying, harassment, intimidation, both passive or active are all prohibited by the Morris School District Board of Education and will be dealt with by the administration. 

“Parents need to have frank discussions with their children about the long-term, sometimes life-threatening consequences of cyber-bullying on child victims," said Maria Vinci Savettiere, Executive Director of Deirdre's House.

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The most effective way to stop cyber-bullying, said Savettiere is to educate children. 

To prevent your child from engaging in cyber-bullying behavior, Deirdre's House suggests:

  • Regularly remind your children about the importance of treating others the way they would want to be treated.  They should be encouraged to be as polite online as they are in person.
  • Talk about how some things we might do or say to someone that seem funny at the time are actually hurtful
  • Remind them not to write or forward hurtful messages.
  • Regularly check in on the online behaviors of your children.  Problematic behavior must be addressed with reasonable and appropriate discipline. 
  • Ask them not to send messages when they are angry. Make sure they ask themselves before clicking "send," how they would feel if they received that message. 
  • Urge them to help kids who are victims of bullying online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.  

If your child is engaging in cyber-bullying behavior, Deirdre's House suggests:

  • Explain the severity of their actions. Ask them if they would like their actions reported to law enforcement or school authorities.
  • Explain to your child that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Stop any show of aggression you see and talk about other ways your child can deal with the situation.
  • Ask them to stop the bullying immediately. Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously and that you will not tolerate this behavior. Encourage them to apologize to the victim.
  • Have them take a break from whatever medium they are using, For example, if they are making hurtful comments about others on Facebook, get them to take a break from Facebook for a few days. If they are sending nasty text messages, then they should lose their cell phone privileges for a while.
  • Talk to them about the devastating psychological harm they could cause. We are all aware of the terrible cases of children taking their own lives because of bullying of all types. Don’t sugarcoat the effect that their cyber bullying could have on the child they are targeting. Ask them: how would you feel if someone did these things to you or to someone you love?
  • Try to find out why: Ask your child - Did something happen to make you act this way? Is there something going on at home that is encouraging this type of behavior? It may be that your child is the target of bullies and turned to bullying in response. Maybe your child has gotten involved with the “wrong crowd’’ and has been coerced into bullying by others to stay popular with that crowd. If you discover the cause, try to help them deal with that problem.
  • Monitor their Internet and phone activity. Move the computer out of their bedroom.
  • Increase your knowledge of technology. Parents may be unaware of the full range of technologies used by their children. Try to familiarize yourself with these technologies.
  • Share your concerns with your child’s teacher, counselor, or principal. Work together to send clear messages to your child that his or her bullying must stop.  If you or your child needs additional help, talk with a school counselor or mental health professional.