What is Cyberbullying?
Bullying has evolved from the days of after-school fistfights or shakedowns for lunch money. In keeping pace with today’s technology, bullying has gone cyber—moving to email, text and social media. This shift to the internet has amplified the devastating impact of bullying because internet mediums facilitate rapid distribution and have no ‘take-back’ or ‘erase’ buttons. What may start as a petty playground fight can quickly escalate and end in tragedy. Here’s a look at a cyberbullying by the numbers and the top 10 ways to stop bullies in their tracks.
1) Tell Someone
The vast majority, 90%, of teens agree that cyberbullying a problem, and 63% believe this is a serious problem. Unfortunately, most teens also believe that schools, politicians and social media companies are failing to address the problem. The good news is that most teens also feel that their parents are effective allies. Still, it’s on parents to be vigilant and reach out to their children if their perceive a possible problem. Often, teens will hesitate to tell parents or other adults if they are the victims of cyberbullying. Often, this lack of communication stems from embarrassment or fear. Victims worry that teachers and parents won’t be able to stop the abuse, and that the harassment will only worsen once the bully finds out that they’ve told an adult.
If you believe that your child is being bullied, or is a bully, it’s critical for you to reach out immediately. Look for practical ways to address the issue, such as involving school administrators and/or a therapist or by contacting social media sites directly.
2) Keep Everything
In some cases, bullying crosses the line from aggravation to criminal harassment or threats. A 2018 study found that children and young adults who are the victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to engage in self-harm or attempt suicide.
The tragedy has become all too familiar: Channing Smith, Gabbie Green. Dolly Everett. And suicide is only one of a plethora of possible bad outcomes. But you can change that starting today. Read one learn some quick ad effective techniques to helping your family protect against and overcome cyberbullying.
There is no time to hesitate if you believe that your child is the victim of cyberbullying. Reach out to your child immediately. Save all posts, messages and communications from the bully by taking screenshots, or photos on your smartphone, in addition to recording the time and date and any other relevant information. Bring everything to the school administration and consider involving the police if you feel that things have crossed the line.
3) Don’t Engage
A 2018 survey of children’s online behavior found that approximately 60% of children who use social media have witnessed some form of bullying, and that, for various reasons, most children ignored the behavior altogether. In order to combat this, a mix of acknowledgment and avoidance is recommended. Those observing the attacks must be willing to report problems to friends, family members or teachers. While those being bullied are often better off ignoring the attacks rather than responding. The goal of any bully is to goad his or her victim into anger, in effect “getting to” the target and making him or her acknowledge ridiculous claims or malicious statements.
The best option for victims is to block the bully from social media and email accounts altogether. For many social media apps, such as Facebook or Instagram, blocking not only removes the bully from the victim’s view, it also means that the bully can no longer directly link to the victim’s profile or even see posts by mutual contacts that tag the victim.
4) Learn More
According to enough.org, as of February 2018, nearly half (47%) of all young people had been the victims of cyberbullying and a 2018 Google survey reported that teachers now consider cyberbullying to be the #1 classroom safety problem. As parents, it’s crucial to learn all you can about what your children are doing on the internet and with their smartphones. Consider cybersecurity options dedicated to keeping kids safe online.
One common misconception is that boys are always the aggressors with and girls, the likely victims. However, girls are just as likely as boys to be both victims and bullies. While boys are more likely to threaten physical violence, girls focus on emotional abuse designed to undermine victims’ self-esteem, which can be even more damaging.
5) Understand the Scope
Many adults believe social media sites are the likely stages for the bullying behaviors, and they’re right. But, with 95% of teens now using smartphones, there’s a far greater scope of potential harm. Bullying can occur on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or through Snapchat, emails and texts coming directly from bullies. In addition to almost ubiquitous smartphone access, 45% of teens report near constant online activity, harassment too can become almost constant. With the rapid changes in technology, it’s imperative to continuously monitor your children’s mobile devices and their online behavior to stay ahead of any potential threats.
6) Recognize the Signs
A cyberbullied child looks the same as any adolescent—often unwilling to talk about his or her day or disclose personal information. But you should be on the lookout for other signs that your child is the victim of cyberbullying, like a loss of interest in favorite activities, an unexplained decline in grades, skipped classes, symptoms of depression and changes in sleeping or eating habits. While any of these may be indicative of multiple concerns, be especially alert if also notice a sudden lack of interest in using the computer or a tendency to become upset after being online or using their smartphone. Or in the case of a child who is the aggressor, extreme anger if you take his or her phone or computer privileges away.
7) Keep Data Secure
In the cases of Izzy Dix and Gabbie Green, bullies were able to set up a fake Facebook profiles for the victims opening up a whole new level of abuse. It’s important for you and your teen to be diligent when it comes to their online posting behavior. It’s also good idea to limit the number of personal photos and information that your child posts. Make sure they understand how to create secure passwords and to change them regularly. Bullies have been known to hack or “hijack” victims’ profiles to post rude and offensive comments. Likewise, teens should always set their social media profiles to “private” and ignore messages from people they don’t know altogether. Today’s comprehensive internet security solutions include password management tools and other cybersecurity features that can help keep your children’s account and online identities secure.
8) Don’t Get Turned Around
As noted by dosomething.org, some victims do fight back against bullies, and then become bullies themselves. While this may seem like one way to solve the problem, what often happens is a “sort of back-and-forth between victim and aggressor” which tends to continue, and escalate, the behavior. Make sure to educate your teen about being respectful of others’ feelings and privacy online. Tell your child that you understand the impulse to retaliate, but that in the long-term it’s best to not get involved in that way.
9) Stand Together
It’s important to stand together and look for long-term solutions to cyberbullying. In 2015 Canada passed a bill into law that made it illegal to distribute images of a person without their consent, and allows police to obtain a warrant for information about internet users based on “reasonable grounds to suspect” an offense has been perpetrated. The bill wasn’t perfect, but it became a road map for future legislation to keep kids safe on the internet. Meanwhile, in the US, laws vary by state, so it’s important to understand your rights and escalate things to the proper authorities if they become out of hand.
10) Hold Bullies Accountable
Bark, a new machine learning-based app, created “in collaboration with child psychologists, youth advisors, digital media experts and law enforcement professionals” offers monitoring and protection from both direct cyberbullying and the signs of being a victim of cyberbullying. To date, the has prevented 16 credible school shooting. This addition to warning parents when teens search terms related to self-harm or abuse.
Cyberbullying statistics make it clear: This is a persistent, serious problem. Armed with data, open communication and actionable solutions, however, parents and teens can help turn the tide against cyberbullying.
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