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Teaching Students to Be Safe Online

Steps to Protect Students Against Cyberbullying and Internet Predators

Today’s teens know that the Internet can be incredibly useful. More and more teens and young adults have personal web pages and use the Internet for a variety of purposes. Unfortunately, the Internet can also be a dangerous place. The hazards you can encounter range from upsetting situations — like being insulted in an instant message, blog, or text message — to physical threats, such as Internet predators.

This doesn’t mean that being online isn’t worth the risks. It just means that you need to know how to protect yourself. Here are a few precautions to take when you’re online:

Understand Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is cruel or hurtful contact using technology. Cyberbullies use electronic technology to harass people, threaten them, or spread rumors. Cyberbullying allows one person to bully another without ever seeing the victim in person. It’s likely that the victim is unable to identify the cyberbully.

About 16 percent of teens say they have experienced cyberbullying, also known as electronic aggression. Such contact can come from people you know or from strangers you’ve had no contact with offline. It can range from immature and annoying to threatening and scary.

Prevent Cyberbullying

The best way to avoid becoming the victim of a cyberbully is to do what you can to prevent it from occurring. Each teen who uses social media can help to prevent the spread of cyberbullying. Avoid including personal information about yourself in text messages, email, or social networks. Another important rule to remember is that any photo that you post online will remain online forever. Even if you delete a photo, a person with good computer skills can retrieve the image. This includes photos that are sent via email, posted to a social network site, or sent via text. When cyberbullying occurs, write down and report the behavior.

Other steps you can take to stop cyberbullies include:

  • Do not respond to cyberbullying messages.
  • Do not forward cyberbullying messages.
  • Block the person who is cyberbullying.
  • Visit social media safety centers to learn how to block users.
  • Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Write down the dates, times, and descriptions of the incidents. Save and print screenshots, e-mails, text messages, etc.

Many states have laws against cyberbullying. To learn about state anti-bullying laws and policies in your state, visit stopbullying.gov.

Avoiding Internet Predators

Cyberbullies try to hurt their victims. They attempt to make these victims feel threatened and helpless. Internet predators, on the other hand, use online contact to build up trust so that they can lure victims into face-to-face meetings. To avoid falling victim to Internet predators, follow the general guidelines for online safety. Keep your identity, personal information, and passwords private. Be cautious about meeting in person with someone you’ve met online. If you do decide to meet in person, tell a trusted adult what you are doing, where you are going, and when you plan to be back. If you’re ever in an online conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened — for any reason — close the application or chat window, leave the site, and let a trusted adult know about the incident.

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McGraw Hill

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