The Internet can be a source of valuable information, fun websites and communication between friends. But it can also be a dark place where cyberbullies use the cloak of the Web to harass others. Cyberbullying is often hidden, because the victim doesn’t identify it as bullying or is too ashamed to report it to adults.
Learn about cyberbullying, what you can do to prevent it and what to do if it happens to your teen.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as:
- actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm another or others.
- use of communication technologies for the intention of harming another person
- use of internet service and mobile technologies such as web pages and discussion groups as well as instant messaging or text messaging with the intention of harming another person.
Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, but only 1 in 10 kids will tell their parent or a trusted adult, according to DoSomething.org.
This video gives a brief introduction to the issue of cyberbullying:
Sources of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can happen in many forums:
Social media may bring us closer to family and friends but it also can be used to harm others. We may think of our kids as enjoying the company of others when they go on Facebook or Twitter, but they may be subjecting themselves to hurtful posts and photos from other teens.
Text messages can be used by cyberbullies to communicate their demeaning words.
Online video games may be a source of cyberbullying. Role-playing games give players a chance to communicate with team members and opponents, sometimes with threats or degrading language. Teens often don’t want to quit the game so don’t report the behavior.
☛ See, Venture Beat, Cyber-bullying and video games.
Apps that let users post anonymously, such as Yik Yak, or send messages that disappear after a short time, such as SnapChat, can be a breeding ground for cyberbullies.
- Cyberbullying Research Center’s article on Yik Yak
- NoBullying.com’s article, SnapChat Bullying Tactics
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have deep and lasting effects on its victims. Teens who are cyberbullied can suffer from anxiety, depression, fear, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. They may feel vulnerable and helpless to combat the online harassment. If bullies are posting anonymously, a victim might feel constantly exposed to the threat of humiliation and intimidation.
☛ See, About Health, What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying? for more information on the psychological effects of cyberbullying on its victims.
How to Identify If Cyberbullying Is Happening to Your Child
Victims of cyberbullying are often ashamed and reluctant to report what’s happening to them. They may feel they’re to blame or fear that reporting the cyberbullying will just make the situation worse. They may not even realize that what they’re experiencing is cyberbullying.
Be alert for these warning signs from StopBullying.gov that a child is being bullied:
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
Teens use the Internet as part of their daily lives for doing homework, playing games and socializing, so keeping them safe online becomes increasingly challenging. We can’t prevent our children from going online so we need to learn how to keep them safe and use the Web responsibly. By educating them as children we can prepare them for when they leave home and have to navigate the Internet as adults.
Communication is key with cyberbullying:
- Talk to your children to warn them about the dangers of cyberbullying and be alert to the signs that it may be happening to them.
- Ask if they know anyone who has been cyberbullied.
- Discuss how it’s not okay to harass, threaten, mock or disparage others online.
- Explain that they won’t be punished if they report cyberbullying.
Monitor your teen’s online activity:
- Visit their social media pages to see what’s being posted.
- See what photos they’ve been tagged in.
- Learn which friends are boosting your child’s self-esteem with positive posts and which seem to be bringing them down with negative ones.
- See which apps they are using on their phones.
What to Do If Cyberbullying Happens to Your Child
If you discover your child is the target of a cyberbully, you can take these steps to deal with the situation:
1. Make a record of the cyberbullying. Comments can be deleted from social media so take screen shots of harassing posts to document what has been published.
2. Don’t post a response. Posting a response gives the bully satisfaction that their shot hit the target.
3. Report the cyberbullying:
- Confront the bully
- Tell the bully’s parents
- Report the bullying comments to the site where they were posted,
- Inform the school administration
- Notify law enforcement
Silence only strengthens the bully.
4. Block the bully from communicating with your child. If your child is receiving harassing text messages, block the bully from the phone.
This infographic from TeenSafe helps show you how you can keep your teen safe from cyberbullying:
“This infographic was provided in part by TeenSafe”
To learn more about cyberbullying, check out these additional resources:
Cyberbullying Research Center offers helpful information for parents, teens and educators about how to identify and protect against cyberbullying.
StopCyberbullying.gov is a US government website that provides information about:
- identifying cyberbullying
- who is at risk
- how to respond to cyberbullies
National Crime Prevention Council Cyberbullying with helpful information on how to identify and combat cyberbullying. You can learn more about cyberbullying, access training programs, download printable posters and flyers, listen to podcasts about cyberbullying, download banners for your website, and much more.
OnGuardOnline.gov gives helpful advice about what to do if your child is the target of a cyberbully.
Ms. Parry’s guide to correct online etiquette (Netiquette) from StopCyberbullying.org helps kids think about what they’re communicating when they post online.
11 Facts about Cyberbullying by DoSomething.org gives additional information and you can join their campaign against cyberbullying.
Were you aware of the dangers of cyberbullying? Have you heard of anyone who has been a victim of cyberbullying? Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with cyberbullying? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Pennsylvania Conference for Women
Just a reminder for those who are in the Philadelphia area on Thursday, October 16, you’ll enjoy attending the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on its 10th anniversary. I’ve attended the Conference for the past two years and am looking forward to this year’s keynote speakers, including: Jane Pauley, Diane Keaton, Robin Roberts, Tory Roberts and more. You can find the full list of Conference speakers at http://www.paconferenceforwomen.org/speakers/.
From the Conference organizers:
The 10th annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women is a non-profit, non-partisan, one-day professional and personal development event for women that features dozens of renowned speakers sharing inspirational stories and leading seminars on the issues that matter most to women, including health, personal finance, executive leadership, small business and entrepreneurship, work/life balance, branding and social media marketing, and more. The Conference offers incredible opportunities for business networking, professional development, and personal growth.
* Finger Pressing with Enter Button image (edited) courtesy of num_skyman via freedigitialphotos.net
** Stop Computer Keys image (edited) courtesy of Stuart Mills via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
*** No Cyberbullying image (edited) by Internetsinacoso (http://noalciberacoso.blogspot.com) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons