Cyberbullying is online harassment via electronic devices, including email, text messaging, and online teen forums. The nature of this assault can be even worse than the old-fashioned kind of physical and verbal bullying - because of the anonymity and the sheer number of people it can reach. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Anne Marie Chaker suggests that schools are getting more and more calls to intervene from parents, but are stuck because much of the nastiness is taking place on home computers, where they have no authority.
The National Schools Boards Association and schools in many states are creating new policies that deal with cyberbullying and many are prohibiting any form of bullying (and spelling out what constitutes bullying) in honor codes. MySpace.com is doing its part by providing a link for students to report abuse and asking schools to report any offensive or threatening behavior via a hotline and email address for school officials to use for that reporting. One complication seems to be First Amendment rights, however, most people seem to believe that any cyberbullying that threatens violence or disrupts the learning environment, can and should be addressed by the school.
Parents, remember the basics of online security - know what your kids are up to on the computer, keep computers out of bedrooms and in public areas, check the history logs to see where your kids are spending their time online, talk about appropriate use of online forums, and make clear what your values are about bullying. It is also not a bad idea to spend some time on MySpace - it will give you plenty of ideas about what to talk to your teens about!