Q: I have a teenage son who spends a lot of time on the Internet and on his cellular phone. I was recently told by a co-worker that her son was a victim of cyber bullying. What is it exactly and what can I do to prevent my son from becoming a victim as well?

A: Online bullying, called cyber bullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send texts or post images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. The involved parties have to be minors on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor.

Most teenagers spend a lot of time on their cell phones or instant messaging with friends and uploading photos, videos, and music to websites. You may have online friends whom you’ve never met in person, with whom you play games and exchange messages. Today, many teens also have lives on the Internet and bullying has followed teens online.

Being a victim of cyber bullying can be a painful experience. Some youth who cyber bully pretend they are other people online to trick others, spread lies and rumors about victims and trick people into revealing personal information. They can also send or forward mean text messages and post pictures of victims without their consent.

Cyber bullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. Whether you’ve been a victim, know someone who has, or have even cyber bullied yourself, there are steps you and your friends can take to stop it and stay cyber-safe. Cyber bullying is usually not a one-time communication.

Cyber bullying can be classified as a misdemeanor cyber harassment charge, or if the child is young enough may result in the charge of juvenile delinquency. It can typically result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a term of service violation. And in some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved it can be a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.

Unfortunately, a large percent of youth find cyber bullying funny and don’t think it’s a big deal. Some encourage each other and think they won’t get caught doing it.

As a victim of cyber bullying there are preventative measures that can be taken to stop the activity such as blocking communication with the cyber bully, deleting messages without reading them, talking to a friend about it and reporting the problem to an Internet service provider.

Some teens feel threatened and scared because they may not know who the cyber bully is and think that they remain anonymous, however, there are ways to identify the source. Make sure you save all communication with the cyber bully and let someone you trust such as your parent, teacher or an adult you trust report it to the Santa Monica Police Department.

There are some additional Internet safety precautions teenagers should know while using the Internet. Remember that the Internet is accessed by millions of people all over the world, not just your friends and family. While many Internet users are friendly, some may want to hurt you. Below are some ways to stay cyber-safe:

• Never post or share your personal information online (this includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or your friends’ personal information.

• Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.

• Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you only know online.

• Talk to your parents about what you do online.

If your child tells you he or she has been the victim of cyber bullying, or you suspect that he or she has, please do not hesitate to call the SMPD at (310) 458-8491, or you can call your neighborhood resource officer. Each one of our phone numbers and e-mail addresses are listed on our website www.santamonicapd.org.

Q: I live in Santa Monica and was wondering if there is a system in place that alerts residents in case of an emergency or important police activity?

A: Yes, the city of Santa Monica has recently implemented a system called SM Alerts. In the event of an emergency, such as an earthquake or police activity, you would receive safety notifications via text, e-mail or even on your home telephone. This gives residents in Santa Monica an easy way to stay up to date on City Hall projects, events and programs.

First you would need to sign up for SM Alerts at www.SMAlerts.net. When you create your profile, you can enter all the ways you would like public safety officials to try to contact you in an emergency: your mobile phone, your work e-mail or anywhere you would need to receive important safety messages. You can even register locations in Santa Monica of interest to you, such as your home, a relative’s home or your child’s school.

Should disaster strike, you’ll receive key information on where to go and what to do to keep you and your family safe. SM Alerts allows our public safety officials to disseminate vital information to thousands of subscribers in a short period of time, so our whole community will be ready in an emergency.

You can also select from a range of community updates, including construction and traffic information, Big Blue Bus detours, even job opportunities with City Hall. The initial list of categories will be expanded over time to include more city projects and programs of interest to the community. Community updates will generally be sent via e-mail only, and you can add more categories or unsubscribe at any time.

City Hall’s current e-mail notification system, WIN, will be phased out over the next several months and replaced by SM Alerts. To ensure continuity of information, residents and businesses that use the WIN system should register for the new SM Alerts system, and check frequently for new categories. City Hall will make every effort to notify WIN users and the public as new categories become available.

SM Alerts is available to all who live, work and play in the city of Santa Monica. People who have disabilities that prevent them from using the online system may sign up off-line by calling the Office of Emergency Management at (310) 458-2263.

The above information was provided by www.smgov.net

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Marilyn Amiache (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). She can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or marilyn.amiache@smgov.net.