Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sue Scheff: Parentings Learn More About Internet Safety with their Kids

Beware on the Web

Cyberbullying a Growing Concern for Parents, Schools


With recent high-profiled cases revolving around cyberbullying - sending or receiving threatening messages online or via text message - teens' online interactions are becoming a growing concern for parents and school districts alike. A 2005 study on cyberbullying by Florida Atlantic University's Sameer Hinduja revealed that approximately 34.4 percent of adolescents reported experiencing some sort of cyberbullying.

What's even more troubling is that more than 40 percent of respondents didn't tell anyone about their cyberbullying experience.

Three recent cases of cyberbullying have shed light on just what a serious impact this type of bullying can have. Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Mo.; 15-year-old Jeffrey Johnston of Cape Coral; and 12-year-old Ryan Halligan of Essex Junction, Vt., each committed suicide after encountering separate acts of what their families consider to be cyberbullying.

In 2007, Meier hung herself after she was "dumped" by a male friend on MySpace, when in actuality the male friend was really a neighborhood girl and her mother posing as a teen boy.

Johnson killed himself in 2005 after receiving a string of threatening e-mails and Internet posts, and Halligan committed suicide in 2003 after false rumors about his sexual orientation spread online.

Though these cases represent the extreme end of the spectrum and each of these children may have had other factors affecting their emotional state, cyberbullying is an increasing problem that students across the nation are experiencing.

Cristin Cotton, a senior at Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, recently deleted her personal MySpace page. Not because she was being bullied, but because she wanted to avoid getting pulled into online drama.

"MySpace and Facebook and sites like that used to be a place to talk and hang out and stuff, but now girls get in fights online and guys get involved and it's a bad situation," Cotton said, and advises younger kids to be wary of what to post online. "Definitely be careful of what you say. I feel like a fight between you and your friend is a fight between you and your friend, not you and everyone else on the Internet."

When it comes to guarding against cyberbullying - or bullying of any kind - Polk County School District employs Jim Maxwell, a school psychologist who specializes in handling student conflict, as well as developing training for teachers on how to identify and deal with bullies.


According to Maxwell, the cyberbully is a different kind of specimen than the average playground bully.

"The typical bully research indicates that kids that bully do so because it benefits them," he said. "It gives them a sense of control and power. ... Another characteristic of a bully is getting what he wants through intimidation, and that's the way it works at home. Often a bully at school is a child that's being bullied at home, generally by the dominant male in the house.

"The cyberbully who uses electronic media to repeatedly harass someone may be different. I suspect that the overall motives remain the same, but some cyberbully kids are simply bored. If you think of prank callers, they're just seeing if they can do it to do it. I think there's a wider variety of kids engaging in cyberbullying than in direct forms of bullying."

According to Maxwell, the school district does have the power to step in and punish those who engage in cyberbullying, even if the interactions do not occur on school property or on school-owned computers. If those online threats cause a disturbance at the school in the form of gossip, class disruption or a confrontation between the students, the school has the right to get involved, he said.


It is, however, difficult to define cyberbullying behavior. An administrator must look at the circumstances behind what is written. For example, was the student writing the message being sarcastic? Was the comment written in response to something the other person had written about them? Or are there specific threats involved?

"Typically, the way to distinguish between cyberbullying is that someone has to analyze what kind of threat is involved, how frequently it's being used, and the sort of nature of the threat. If it's a one-time thing, it's probably harassment," Maxwell said. "If it's in any way repeated or linked up with behaviors occurring in school, then you have a history of bullying."

Maxwell says the standard definition of bullying includes:

An intention to demean or embarrass or make someone feel powerless or actually hurt them.

Repetition over time, and

An imbalance of power between the bully and the victim.

"That's probably the hardest for law enforcement, parents and administrators to sort out," Maxwell said. "What if the victim has been annoying the kid that might be characterized as the bully and you have a kind of back-and-forth situation? I think that's more a feud or rivalry. In real bullying you have that repeated harassment and there's a real difference in the bully and victim."


According to Maxwell, the best defense against cyberbullying is to actively protect your child's identity online, meaning that children and teens should take caution in who they give their e-mail address and phone number to, as well as what chat rooms or Web sites they visit.

He also recommends children keep an anonymous profile online. That means using a made-up username, not one that indicates a first or last name. Also, refrain from giving out personal information, like addresses and even what school they go to. If a cyberbully finds them anyway, a parent's first step is to make a record of the interaction and then head to the police.

"If you have a son or daughter and they really are being harassed, do a 'print screen' and save it as evidence of what's going on. Then talk to one of the authorities if there are serious threats, threats that imply that someone's going to get hurt. ... If it's more a school-related issue, talk to the principal or guidance counselor."

A "print screen" is a simple way to take a digital snapshot of an e-mail, instant message or message board posting that appears on your computer screen. Simply find the key on your computer's keyboard that says "Print Screen" or "PrtSc" and hit it once. It will take a snapshot of your current computer screen. Then paste it somewhere.

Lastly, Maxwell advises that parents do not approach the bully's parents about their children's online behavior. Most likely, your complaint will fall on deaf ears and may cause even more problems for the victim.

"The fact that a lot of times children are bullied at home means that their father or significant male gets what he wants through intimidation and is teaching this strategy to his child in an indirect way.

"If you go to someone like that and confront them about something their child has done wrong, you're likely to get bullied yourself and the interaction may not go well."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Internet Safety with Teens

Once they turn 12 kids think they know just about everything, so how do you teach them about teenage Internet safety? With hundreds of teen chat rooms online, there really is no way to guarantee Internet safety for teenagers. Go into one and within minutes, someone will type a message like: “How old are you?” “Where do you live?” “Are your parents home?”

Can you really know who’s talking to your kids online? And what information are your children sharing? The Internet offers amazing advantages, but it also gives predators a new way to find and stalk their victims. And kids are using technology to “cyberbully” - sending malicious emails and harassing Instant Messages, creating a whole new area of concern when it comes to teenage Internet safety.

Real-Life Stories Teach Internet Safety for Teenagers

Caught in the Web, tells the true story of 13-year-old Kylie Taylor, who met a 47-year old man in a chat room and agreed to meet him – a move that nearly cost Kylie her life. You’ll also hear about teenage Internet safety from reformed cyber predators, their victims and learn what parents can do about kids sending abusive messages online.

Watch Caught in the Web with your family, so you can teach your children about the devastating effects of cyberbullying. Hear from experts about the best ways to improve Internet safety for kids. And learn the meaning of “online lingo” that could save your child’s life.
Order Caught in the Web today to learn what you can do about teenage Internet safety.
For more information - Wrapped in the Web.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sue Scheff: Teen Cult - Preventing it from Ruining your Family

Teen cults claim many victims each year

Every year thousands of teens across the country become ensnared in the dangerous and misunderstood world of cults. These hazardous entities prey on the uncertainty and alienation that many teens feel and use those feelings to attract unsuspecting teens into their cult traps. As a figurehead in the world of parent teen relations, Sue Scheff™ knows the danger of cults and teenagers’ susceptibility to their temptations. Sue Scheff™ believes that like many other teen\ ailments, the best defense against the world of cults is through education.

No teen actually joins a cult, they join a religious movement or a political organization that reaches out to the feelings of angst or isolation that many troubled teen’s experience. Over time, this group gradually reveals its true cultish nature, and before teens know it, they are trapped in a web they can’t untangle.

With the strong rise in teen internet usage, cults have many ways to contact children and brainwash them. Sue Scheff™ knows the dark side of the internet from her experience with teenage internet addiction, and she understands it is also an avenue for cults to infiltrate teenage brains.

Cults have long been represented in the mass media. The supporters of Reverend Jim Jones People’s Temple may be some of the most famous cult members, making global headlines when they died in the hundreds after drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Almost 300 of the dead Jones supporters were teens and young children. Heavens Gate is another well known cult, which believed ritual suicide would ensure their journey behind the Hale-Bopp comet with Jesus. Heavens Gate lived in a strict communal environment, funding their cult endeavors through web site development. Some male members of the cult even castrated themselves before all 36 committed suicide, wearing matching sweat suits and Nike tennis shoes.

It is clear that despite the ridiculous and bizarre nature of many cults, parents can’t ignore the power and resourcefulness of these groups. Cult ideas may seem to loony to take seriously, but they can have real power when used against troubled teenagers, the exact type of teens that Sue Scheff™ and other parent advocates have been working to keep safe.

Cult influence should not be taken lightly, especially when living with a troubled teen. Parents may not think of cults as a problem because they don’t hear about them a lot, but that’s the key to cult success. The livelihood of teen cults relies on staying out of the public eye and in the shadows. The Heaven’s Gate and People’s Temple cults didn’t truly gain public notice until after their suicides, and by then it was too late to save their followers.

The danger of teen cults is real, but parents can help ensure their teenagers’ safety by staying informed and communicating with their children. Sue Scheff™ presents a site with important information about different types of cults that target teens, warning signs of cult attendance, and ways to help prevent your teen from becoming involved in a cult. Knowledge and communication is always the first line of defense when helping a troubled teen.

For more information on Teen Cults.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sue Scheff - The Controversy of Teens and the Internet

The Controversy

While the idea of addiction possibly forming through over usage of the Internet has long been ignored, doctors and parents are beginning to take notice of this disturbing trend in teens.

The term "Internet addiction" was introduced in the late 1990s and has been dismissed by the majority of medical professionals.

Many believe that excessive time spent surfing the web is in fact a warning signal for a larger and more dangerous mental disease like depression.

Others believe that while Internet addiction can exist on its own, the solitary behavior can lead to growing levels of depression, anxiety, self-consciousness and obesity.

Though the verdict is still out in the medical communities, parents worldwide are concerned over their teens as they spend more and more time in front of computer screens.

Sue Scheff™ parent advocate and founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts™, believes that Internet usage should be monitored closely by parents.

"Parents aren't as concerned with their teens who are online once in a while," said Scheff. "Parents are concerned with the teens who are completely addicted to MySpace or some other Web site. The ones who are not able to tear themselves away.

"Sue Scheff™ along with so many parents, knows that that while internet addiction can be a symptom of or fuel a teenager's depression or anxiety, there are other dangers lurking from behind the web."

The fact is that these teens can become introverts.

It affects levels of growth and maturity." Scheff says. "The other thing is teens don't understand that people lie online, people aren't honest online. D

o you really know who is on the other end of those messages or chat rooms?"As parents, we must take a stand together to educate others on the dangers of Internet addiction. Looking for support from other parents?

Visit the official website of Sue Scheff's Parents Universal Resource Experts

Visit Wrapped in the Web by Sue Scheff

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sue Scheff: What your kids are doing shouldn't be a mystery

Who’s pressuring your kids? Who’s offering them alcohol or drugs? Who’s talking to them on the Internet? Whether we’re teachers, parents, counselors…sometimes we just don’t know what’s really going on in a child’s life.

If you want to talk to your kids about the challenges they face, but aren’t sure what to say, our programs will help…with real kids sharing their true stories, and advice from experts, educators and parents who have “been there.”

Click here for a fantastic educational resource to help you help your kids!