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Cyber Bullying’s Impact And How To Address It

Cyberbullying: The Insidious New Threat

The advent of the digital age has brought a whole host of new challenges to parents across the US, giving our children access to almost infinite sources of information, both good and bad. One of the negative aspects of this technological revolution is that it opens up a new channel for bullies to target their victims, often unknown to parents, caregivers, and school administrators.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is often officially defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” In practice, it can be anything from repeatedly leaving negative comments on someone’s social media profile page, all the way through to threatening and overtly aggressive text messages. “Sexting”, where teenagers send each other nude or semi-nude images or video, can often be the foundation of a threatening and humiliating cyberbullying campaign against someone.

The effects of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has essentially the same effects as regular, face to face bullying: a constant feeling of anxiety and fearfulness; depression and lack of interest in life, hobbies, and activities; physical illness due to the unrelenting stress that the victim experiences; and a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. The CDC estimates that 15% of students have been cyberbullied in the last year, so this is a problem that we need to be addressing, both at home and in school.

How to spot a victim

Dealing with cyberbullying often begins with the tricky task of identifying the victims. Look for withdrawn behavior, especially after time spent online or on their phones, combined with secrecy and reluctance to discuss what they’ve been doing. A general lack of interest in the things they used to enjoy can point to a bullying scenario and should trigger a gentle discussion about what’s wrong.

What can we do?

The first step towards countering the threat of cyberbullying is to make sure that you have established good communication with your child, making them feel able to confide in you. Another key factor is to educate children, parents, and school administrators on the dangers of cyberbullying, how to spot it, and what to do if they encounter it. A survey undertaken by the FBI found that 80% of the officers participating felt that they weren’t sufficiently trained to deal with the new issue of cyberbullying, emphasizing the fact that we need to make a community effort to address this issue in our homes and schools. Establishing zero tolerance, providing an anonymous way of reporting cyberbullying incidents, and organizing educational talks within your community are all good first steps towards this goal.


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