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Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying and body weight among children is not only subjecting them to several health risks, but also to social discrimination

Cyberbullying and body weight: Stigmatizing obese children

Up to now, very little research has been done about cyberbullying specifically toward obese children. Nonetheless, the high rates of youth who report witnessing and experiencing weight-based teasing could be a pointer of the magnitude of the problem many obese children are victims of cyberbullying. Devastating stories of two girls who hung themselves have recently circulated in the media. Megan a 13-year-old Missouri girl who struggled with her weight, experienced cyberbullying on MySpace and was called “fat” and “slut” by someone posing as another person. Celina, an 11-year-old Florida girl, experienced cyber-bullying via text messages from classmates who jeered at her weight and race. And like I had said, we all or our children the duty of care and so it is important to ensure that weight-based cyber-bullying is on the radar of parents.

Doctor Dalal Akoury MD, and founder of AWAREmed health and wellness resource center reiterates that parents can be powerful change-agents in bringing this issue to the attention of schools, and especially to help protect their own children from becoming victims of cyber-bullying. Parents can also communicate the following messages to their children to help prevent cyber-bullying, and to react appropriately if it occurs:

Prevention

  • Never share or post your private/personal information (name, address, phone number).
  • Do not share your passwords with anyone, not even friends.
  • When you see a picture, Email or message that may be hurtful, embarrassing or cruel, delete it do not forward it.

Reaction:

  • If you are the victim of cyberbullying, do not retaliate.
  • Record the message and details as best as you can.
  • Then, delete it, block the bully, sign-off or exit the Web site and tell an adult.

The facts
we have many opportunities for overweight youth to be cyber-bullied. Teens use the Internet and send/receive text messages significantly more than any other age group, with 93 percent using the Internet and 73 percent using social networking Web sites – most often Facebook and MySpace.

Three-fourths of teens own a cell phone, and on average, teens send/receive 2,539-4,050 texts per month. This is concerning given that the Internet and cell phones are the primary places where cyber-bullying occurs.

Cyberbullying and body weight: Strategies for parents

Monitoring Cyberbullies and victims spend more time on computers and report less monitoring than youth who are not involved in cyber-bullying. Regulate the time and access your child has to the Internet. Set boundaries on usage and the types of Web sites or services your child is allowed to visit.

Familiarizing Parents should try to understand cyber media and Internet safety. Share this information with your child to help them understand potential dangers.

Accountability Ask your child about Web sites, activities and communications they access. Set-up your own pages to understand these sites and keep your child accountable.

Communication – It is estimated nine out of 10 children do not tell their parents or an adult when something means or hurtful happens to them online. Some youth are afraid that they will lose their Internet or phone privileges, or that the bullying will get worse. To keep the dialogue open, make sure that your child knows that you are there to help.

Education – Work with schools to provide education about privacy and safety on the Web, or media literacy programs to teach youth how to be more intelligent, critical consumers of Web-based services and information. If your child has been a victim of cyber-bullying, seek for help at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center under Doctor Akoury’s care becomes necessary and you can call her now to schedule an appointment.

Cyberbullying and body weight: Stigmatizing obese children

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