Cyberbullying

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Our kids are completely immersed in technology these days, with a majority of their communication coming through text messaging, instant messaging and social networking sites. This constant contact via technology also allows school bullies to hound victims 24 hours a day and invite others to pile on.
Before the Internet, social media and mobile phones became part of the lives of young people, bullying was limited to the playground, school hallways or the street. Once at home, children had a respite from the verbal or physical threats of bullies. The digital age ushered in a more pervasive style of bullying. Using technology, a bully may taunt his or her victim at any time of the day or night, seven days a week. The Cyberbullying Research Center gives other ways in which cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying, revealing that it may cause even more devastation than in-person bullying. These differences include:

The cyberbully may use anonymous email addresses or fake screen names, effectively hiding his or her identity. Not knowing who the bully is may create additional stress and confusion for victims.
The cyberbully taunts don’t end when he or she is out of sight: they have the capacity to go viral. Posts on social media can be reposted, text messages and emails can be forwarded, and pictures can be shared. Many people at school, in the community and beyond may find out about the victimization and/or get involved in it.
Technology makes it easier for some people to show cruelty because they are physically distant from their intended victims. They might not even realize the intense reaction and serious harm their online posts cause for their victims.
Many parents don’t have the technological know-how or time to keep track of what their children are doing online. They may not recognize that their child is being harassed by a cyberbully or even is a cyberbully.

Did you, your child or a friend feel the sting of cyberbullying this year? According to the anti-bullying website NoBully.org, Each year approximately one-third of adolescents worldwide are the target of bullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center notes that a link exists between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, depression, family problems, academic difficulties, school violence, delinquent behaviors and even suicide. Cyberbullying presents serious issues for our youth and many adults do not understand what it is or how to respond to it.

What is Cyberbullying?

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) defines cyberbullying as the use of the Internet, cell phones, video game systems or other technology to hurt or embarrass another person. Examples of cyberbullying provided by NCPC include:

Sending mean or threatening emails, messages or texts
Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others
Sending or forwarding private messages to others
Sharing explicit pictures without consent
Starting rumors via text messages or online
Creating fake online profiles on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., to make fun of people.

Warning Signs:

How can you tell if your child is being subjected to cyberbullying? Parents completely out of the loop with a child's technology usage can find it hard to detect when something of this nature may be occurring. Generally speaking, behavioral changes accompany attacks. Not any of these signs on its own is an indicator; however, more than one could warrant a discussion with your child:

Appearing upset after internet use
Being afraid of leaving the house, especially to go to school
Being secretive about internet activity
Changing attitude, dress or habits
Clearing the screen when parents enter the room
Crying for no apparent reason
Getting behind in school work
Having headaches, stomachaches or a lack of appetite
Having trouble sleeping
Hesitating to get online
Spending unusually long hours on the computer

Tips:

Parents usually are the most important adults in children’s lives and can help educate their teens about the best ways to respond to cyberbullying. Just a few tips include the following:

Make sure your children use hard to guess passwords on all of their Internet accessible accounts and never share them. One cyberbullying tactic is to guess a targeted victim’s password on a social media site, app or email account and then take it over and pretend to be the victim, sending or posting harmful or embarrassing messages.
Offer comfort and support to your child if you find out he or she is being cyberbullied. Sharing any bullying experiences you had in school may help your teen feel less alone. Share that a lot of people are bullied at some point in their lives. Tell them you will help them figure out how to handle the situation.
Contact the content provider. Cyberbullying violates the Terms of Service of all legitimate service providers. Contact information may be found at: https://cyberbullying.org/report
Collect evidence. Print messages, pictures, etc. that show evidence of cyberbullying. Work with the school, if needed. If physical threats are involved, contact police.
Contact your Local Police Department

Resources:

http://www.nobully.org
http://www.safekids.com/tips-to-stop-cyberbullying
http://cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-identification-prevention-and-response/
https://www.ncpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NCPC_Cyberbullying-TipSheet-TipsForTeens.pdf
http://www.adl.org/education-outreach/bullying-cyberbullying/c/cyberbullying-warning-signs.html
https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/massachusetts/index.html
http://www.netsmartz.org/Cyberbullying