A 12-year-old girl in Florida recently leapt to her death after she was relentlessly bullied by her classmates. Even after she switched schools, the bullying continued—online.

The brave new world of technology has spawned a monster: the cyberbully. For those unfamiliar with the term cyberbullying, according to the website stopbullying.gov it is “bullying that takes place using electronic technology . . . Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or e‑mails, rumors sent by e‑mail or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles.”

Cyberbullying is a real and serious threat to the wellbeing of our children. For all the positive advancements and convenience electronic Even after she switched schools, the bullying continued—onlinedevices such as cell phones and computers bring to our lives, there also lurks a sinister side to this technology that cannot be ignored. It is beyond disturbing to think that such a device, in the hands of thoughtless youth, can morph into a weapon with the potential to drive another human being to take his or her own life.

The statistics on cyberbullying are alarming. According to dosomething.org, a website for teens that addresses social issues, nearly 43 percent of all kids have been bullied online, 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once, and only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of the abuse. Most disturbing, as reported on this same website, those being cyberbullied are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.

More insidious and lethal than the garden-variety schoolyard bully of yesteryear, the cyberbully targets his or her victim with e‑mails, tweets and texts, rendering impotent the old adage that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” If the perpetrator’s aim is accurate, striking countless blows to the most vulnerable girl or boy in any social or classroom setting, the words do hurt; in fact, they have the potential to kill.

The Jewish perspective on verbal (and nonverbal) abuse is simple yet eloquent: “You shall not wrong one another, and you shall fear your G‑d.”1 Rashi clarifies: “This refers to verbal oppression (ona’at devarim), namely that a person may not antagonize another, nor give him bad advice in order to benefit himself. And if you were to ask, ‘Who would ever know my secret intentions?’ the verse ends with ‘fear G‑d,’ the One who knows.”

Parents need to carefully consider whether or not to allow the Internet into their home. The Internet can bring a variety of negative influences into the home, of which cyberbullying is only one example. If you do decide to allow the Internet, here are some precautions to take to protect your child from becoming a victim, a bystander, or even the instigator of cyberbullying:

  1. Know your child’s passwords and screen names for all e‑mail accounts, social media applications and electronic devices. Allow your child to have a Facebook or Twitter account only if you can be friends/followers.
  2. Monitor what your child writes on his or her electronic device(s) and the family computer. Regularly check the Internet search history. (The girl who committed suicide in Florida had searched for ways to kill herself, which was discovered later in her search history.)
  3. Learn the current terminology used by youth today when corresponding with each other.
  4. Attend school or community functions where cyberbullying is being discussed. Talk with other parents and your child’s Learn the current terminologyteacher and school counselor if you suspect your child is involved in cyberbullying.
  5. Watch for any sudden or ongoing signs that your child seems anxious, fearful, withdrawn, or uninterested in school or being with former friends.
  6. Demonstrate to your child that you can be trusted with any cyberbullying information he or she shares with you. Explain that you will keep his or her confidence as long as no one’s safety or health is at risk.
  7. Explain that you don’t intend to punish your child for being truthful about his or her involvement in cyberbullying. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible with careful, non-threatening conversation.
  8. Carefully monitor your own reaction if your child reports being cyberbullied. Try to stay calm as you plan your next steps.
  9. In an age-appropriate manner, explain what happened in Florida, or in a similar cyberbullying situation, and your concern that such a terrible thing must never happen in your family or any other family.
  10. Remind your child to treat others the way he or she would like to be treated. Teach your child to never say or write anything about another person that he or she would not be willing or comfortable to say to that person’s face.

Unfortunately, the frequency of cyberbullying is on the rise, especially among middle-school-age students. Because it is every parent’s responsibility to protect his or her child from harm, consider discussing the dangers of cyberbullying with your kids today.