Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is "Catfishing" A Form of Cyber Bullying?

First of all, in the on-line world,  what is "catfishing"?   


According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center and one of its founders Justin Patchin...."catfishing refers to the practice of setting up a fictitious online profile, most often for the purpose of luring another into a fraudulent romantic relationship" (, February 7, 2013, 12:41 pm). In the news recently, we have learned of the high profile case of Manti Teo who developed an on-line romantic relationship with another individual whom he believed to be a female. When Manti Teo discovered that the relationship was all a "lie", he and many others in his family were deeply hurt by the layers of deception deliberately inflicted by the online perpetrator.

One of the struggles that parents and guardians face is knowing what is considered to be innocent on-line teasing or playing a joke on an individual and what really constitutes "cyber bullying". Again, according to Patchin, "Anytime someone uses technology in a way that causes repeated harm to another, it can be classified as cyber bullying" (, February 7, 2013).  Catfishing qualifies as a form of cyber bullying and should be dealt with as such.  As with other forms of cyber bullying, these behaviors are always intentional and aggressive; they can be perpetuated by a group or an individual; and they are targeted against a victim who cannot easily defend him/herself.

What can parents or guardians do to  help protect our youth against "catfishing"?

  • Do not give out personal information to on-line individuals that you do not know (in person).
  • Even if you know them, limit the amount of personal information.
  • Do not accept 'friend requests' from strangers.
  • Do not be fooled or blinded by someone's words of affection, or attention, or affirmation. This is how a perpetrator will draw in a innocent person!
  • If someone seems too good to be true - they are!  Trust me, no one is perfect!!
  • NEVER go meet with someone you met on-line!
  • TELL a trusted adult if you think something is "fishy" about an on-line relationship! It probably is!! 

Parents and guardians, in order to make any of this work, you must get involved and stay involved in your children's relationship with their technology.  You  MUST get to know their Net Neighborhood just as you would know their real friends.  Remember, you are not intruding on their privacy - you are protecting them from harm. You are being the parent they need and deserve.

For more tips and tools, please visit Holli Kenley

Note:  For more information, go to Cyber Bullying Research Center


Monday, February 4, 2013

Cyber Bullying - Who Is At Risk?

After spending the past several years researching, analyzing, and synthesizing the work of current experts on the issue of cyber bullying, I have discovered there is consensus about who is at risk.  Data strongly supports that international victimization rates range from 10 -42% in  most, if not all, developed countries. And, victimization does not discriminate; individuals targeted cross all social, economic, racial, and cultural boundaries. However, there is also agreement that individuals with special  needs and  GLTB (gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual) communities are more highly victimized. At the same time, as caring concerned parents, guardians, educators, youth, and community members/organizations try desperately to curb this social pathogen , there is an important behavioral tenant that reminds us of how any individual can be victimized or made vulnerable through cyber bullying or from any potentially harmful source  - the degree of access (to any person, place, or thing) is a predictor to the degree of consequence (either positive or negative).

Parents and guardians, it is common sense that we teach, guide, and monitor our children as they grow and develop. As is age appropriate and with maturity that demonstrates responsibility, we allow our children to embrace a myriad of social behaviors: making friends and having over-nights, dating, driving, attending dances and parties, holding down  jobs, etc. With each extension of freedom that we hand over to our youth, we often tremble with the awareness that they are more susceptible to harm. In order to maintain our sanity, we, as parents and guardians, rely on the guidance,expectations and rules that we have set for our children, and we trust in the mutual love and respect that we have demonstrated for each other. This is why it is disturbing and unsettling when I talk with parents and guardians about their lack of  instruction, regulation, and supervision when it comes to their children's use of technology.

Research supports that the more time children spend on technology, the more at risk they are for being victimized, for participating in bullying behaviors, or both.  Once again, the degree of access is a predictor to the degree of consequence. As responsible parents and guardians, there are several strategies to  put into place if we are going to help protect our children from harmful cyber behaviors.

  • When you give your children a piece of technology or give them access to it, know why you are doing so!  Have a solid reason for it. Peer pressure is not a good reason!
  • Clearly explain the rules and expectations about the use of technology. Yes,there should be rules! Start your children on a Family Internet Use Agreement or Safety Contract ! It is never too late. If you have not used one, start now!  (see below)
  • Monitor and supervise the use of the technology.  Am I kidding - NO!  This is extremely important. Yes, monitoring should be age appropriate and it can change as children show responsibility, but do not back down on this.  When parents ask me if it is 'ok' to invade their children's privacy, I respond, "It is better to do the hard work up front than live with the heart-ache in the end." If your kids know ahead of time that you are going to be  involved in their 'on-line life', they will not resent you for it. In fact, they will thank you, especially when they see that you are simply protecting them.      
These are just a few tools to help parents and guardians reduce the risk of harm from unhealthy cyber behaviors. However, the best overall strategy is to be an active involved parent/guardian in your children's relationships with their technology.   Let's change the behavioral equation to...

The degree of meaningful respectful parental involvement and oversight into your children's lives  is a reliable predictor to the degree in which your children will safely, sensibly, and successfully  navigate through life's social challenges.  

For more tips and tools, visit Holli Kenley!

Note: Download a "Family Internet Use Agreement" now and put it in place!
          Click "Parents"; click "Family Online Safety Contract".

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