Cyberbullying has gotten more and more common as more and more teens and tweens have access to the internet via family computers, cell phones, tablets, personal computers, and social media. There are plenty of crime show episodes based on cyberbullying, there are Netflix documentaries, movies, and news stories about cyberbullying and the effects it has on all parties involved.
Cyber bullying is particularly worrisome because if you are on any form of social media you know it’s not limited to kids. I am part of an “all-inclusive, welcoming, and open” mom group that has plenty of it going around. The moderators try to put these posts and offenders to a stop but there are always other posts and other nasty people out there. Our own President of the United States could be described as a cyber bully. It’s a terrifying thought that someone who holds such power will resort to twitter to call out someone he dislikes.
According to Safely Ever After there are a lot of tips to help parents, kids, and schools. They also give us reasons why kids do it, what it is, and why it’s dangerous. The statistics they give us are eye opening.
Have you heard of it? If not, you probably will soon, because cyber bullying is becoming increasingly more common among tweens and teens using the Internet today. While most parents these days worry about the online stranger or predator that may be trying to lure their children, the fact is most parents don’t have a clue about this relatively new and dangerous phenomenon our kids are faced with.
WHAT IS IT?
The basic definition of cyberbullying: Using the Internet, cell phones or other electronic devices for the purpose of harassing, threatening, embarrassing, or otherwise hurting another person. Cyberbullying can be done through emails, text messaging, postings through blogs and social networking sites, or by sending pictures or images online with the intention of hurting another person.
WHY IS IT DANGEROUS?
For one thing, it preys on children emotionally AND physically. Imagine being a 13-year-old girl whose yearbook picture has been altered in some way, perhaps your face superimposed on a different body, and then texted to everyone in the school. Maybe with a threatening or humiliating caption. Maybe even with your home address and phone number. How about a 12-year-old boy… who is being bombarded daily with texts and emails calling him names, making fun of his weight or other physical features, and being taunted with threats of physical violence “you’re gonna get your ____ jumped badly after school today.” These are just two of the real-life examples of cyberbullying that our children are facing today. If you were one of those kids, what might you do? Run away, retaliate, physically hurt yourself, sink into depression?
A recent survey of 1500 students, grades 4 through 8, conducted by I-Safe America (www.i-safe.org) found that:
— 42% of those interviewed were victims of some form
— 35% had been threatened
— 58% of those victims did not tell an adult or parent
— Girls were more likely to be targets of cyberbullying than boys
WHY DO KIDS DO THIS?
There are lots of reasons. Sometimes they’re motivated by anger, frustration or revenge. Sometimes it’s a form of entertainment because they’re bored, or they want a “laugh.” Some kids are looking for a sense of power or stature among their peers. Some kids may do so by accident, by not realizing that passing along hurtful messages is in fact cyberbullying. Whatever the reason may be, cyberbullying is hurtful, damaging, and can have serious consequences to everyone involved.
IS IT ILLEGAL?
In some instances, yes. Certain threats of physical harm, language or images are definitely illegal and law enforcement can and will take action, even if the perpetrator is a minor.
The sad truth is that this is happening in schools across America. Surprisingly, even kids who would never engage in bullying behavior against another person in the “real world” are taking part in cyberbullying either by instigating or passing along texts and emails as part of the “game.” Parents and educators are just now beginning to recognize the seriousness of the problem, and reaching out to understand how this happens and more importantly, how to stop it.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
You can’t protect your child if you don’t see or understand the problem. Parents also need to be the ones that kids go to when something is troubling them, yet often they’re the last ones to know. Why – because kids fear that you’ll overreact or that they’ll get in trouble.
- Keep the computer in a common area of the home. Do not allow it in the child’s bedroom. Monitor their online usage.
- Learn how various internet sites work. Get familiar with Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Twitter, Imgur, etc. Have your child show you these social networking sites, especially if they have profile pages.
- Talk regularly and specifically with your child about online issues. Let them know they can come to you with anything that is upsetting, inappropriate or threatening in any way and that you’ll help them.
- Don’t threaten to take away their computer if they do come to you with a problem. This threat only forces kids to go “underground” and keep things secret.
- Build trust with your child. Set time limits, explain your reasons and discuss rules for online safety and internet use. Have your child contribute to establishing the rules. They’ll be more inclined to follow them.
- Don’t overreact by blaming the victim. If your child is being bullied, be supportive and understanding. Find out how long it’s been going on and promise them, you’ll work together to find a solution. Let them know it’s NOT THEIR FAULT.
- Don’t under-react by telling them to “shrug it off”, or just deal with it. The emotional pain of cyberbullying is very real and can have long lasting effects. Don’t tease them about it or respond with a “kids will be kids” attitude.
- Talk to your school’s guidance counselor so they can keep an eye out for bullying during the school day.
- If there are threats of physical violence or the bullying continues to escalate, get law enforcement involved.
- Tell your child not to respond to any threats or bullying comments online. However, DO NOT DELETE the message(s). Instead, print it out in its entirety including the email address or online screen name of the originator. You will need this to prove exactly what is happening.
WHAT CAN KIDS DO?
- Don’t reply or respond to the cyberbully’s message.
- Don’t be an accomplice. Don’t forward any bullying messages
- Save/print up the evidence.
- Tell an adult. You can get help to solve the problem.
WHAT CAN SCHOOLS DO?
- Adopt a zero tolerance policy for any and all bullying – online or in person. Make it clear that any and all intimidation, harassment, or threatening behavior will be dealt with swiftly and seriously.
- School districts should have anti-bullying policies in place, and both parents and students should be aware of these policies at the start of the school year.
- Incorporate Internet Safety Awareness classes into the curriculum.
- Engage students, parents, and teachers in discussions about bullying prevention. Have student council or student panels address the issue to their peers in school-wide assemblies, at PTA meetings, or other school-wide events. Get everyone involved!!