Cyberbullying 101 + Prevention Tips
15% of high school students report experiencing cyberbullying in the past year according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey.
With the internet and a wide variety of electronic devices (cell phones, computers, tablets, etc.) we know that our kids have access to many different communication tools. This includes things like social media sites, texting, chatting and websites in general – all of which potentially can be manipulated and used for sending rude, harmful and embarrassing messages, videos, and pictures. As one of our final posts for 2014, we wanted to share with you this information on why cyberbullying is different, the various effects of cyberbullying, and how to prevent it from happening to your kids.
How is cyberbullying different?
One of the allures of cyberbullying is that bullies feel like they can send harmful messages without the threat or repercussions that may be involved with in-person bullying. About Health explains that cyberbullies feel empowered to say harsher things they may not say in person because they feel “insulated and detached from the situation.” According to Stopbullying.gov, children who experience cyberbullying are often also being bullied in person. The website also explains that “kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.”
Prior to the internet and the multiple electronic devices, victims could usually leave their bullies behind when they left school. Now cyberbullies can be acting 24/7 and can even stay anonymous. Nobullying.com states, “Unlike schoolyard teasing or fights, the anonymity provided by electronic media can encourage bullies, and their ubiquity allows a vicious comment, nasty remark, unflattering photo or video to be sent to countless numbers of people instantaneously.” These bullying messages and images can be distributed quickly and to a large audience when done online. Stopbullying.gov explains that once these messages are posted, it is very difficult to delete them – not leaving the victims an easy or safe way out.
What are the effects of cyberbullying?
According to Stopbullying.gov, kids that are cyberbullied are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, skip school, experience in-person bullying, be unwilling to attend school, receive poor grades, have lower self-esteem and have more health problems. The About Health website explains that while many of the repercussions of cyberbullying are similar to traditional bullying, there are some unique consequences and negative feelings that are common for those that experience cyberbullying. Teens/tweens that are cyberbullying targets can become overwhelmed by the feeling like the situation is more than they can deal with. They also struggle with feeling vulnerable and powerless. To these victims it can feel like there is no place to escape to and that bullying is everywhere. When the bullying occurs anonymously, the victims often feel immense fear because they don’t know who is harassing them.
How can you prevent cyberbullying?
The website Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding advises people to think about what they post or say online. They urge people to not post any secrets, photos or anything they would be embarrassed by if it got into the wrong hands. One thing about the internet is that a person does not have control over who forwards or reposts any content that they provide or that is said/created about them – thus the reason cyberbullying can escalate and get out of hand so quickly. The website also encourages people to turn on their privacy settings on all online accounts. This will help ensure that your children are only sharing information with the people they know and trust. If you or your child are wanting to double check their online status and what information is available about them online, you can do a search of their name to see what posts come up. The About Health website produced an article “How to Keep Your Kids Safe from Cyberbullying” which includes dozens of tips for how to keep your kids safe online. The three overarching themes are to: establish online rules with your kids, get involved with your kids’ online world, and respond immediately to cyberbullying when it happens.
If you are looking for additional internet safety and cyberbullying resources, the About Health website has a large variety of articles including: