Cyberbullying has become a persistent issue in the age of technology, but there are lots of ways you can be proactive and protect your family. Here’s how.
The Changing Faces of a Bully
Bullying and cyberbullying both involve intentionally harming a person over a long period of time by aggressive behavior that causes them mental or physical harm.
Bullying can happen just about anywhere people live or work together. Bullies usually love to pick on someone who’s different or doesn’t quite fit in. Maybe their style is unusual or they don’t look or sound like everyone else. This should be a reason and time to celebrate our differences. Unfortunately, bullies try to make themselves feel superior by bringing others down.
In the past, we imagined the caricature of a large, oafish school bully who would pick on some weak defenseless child in the classroom. Or maybe the “mean girls” exchanging negative whispers directed at some unsuspecting victim. Technology has given bullying a new and changing face. With 24/7 access to the internet and our personal electronic devices, cyberbullying can run rampant. Anonymity can also provide a sense of power for bullies who feel they can hide behind a screen.
There are many different tactics an internet bully can use to target their victims, so knowing what these look like can help you recognize the warning signs and red flags:
- Flaming: Using vulgar or inappropriate language to argue, attack, or fight with someone.
- Harassing: Repeatedly sending inappropriate, hateful, or hurtful content or messages.
- Outing/doxing: Publicly sharing a victim’s personal information or secrets.
- Exclusion: Intentionally and publicly excluding someone from a group, and torturing them afterward.
- Impersonation: Posing as someone in order to damage their reputation, inviting an attack, or sharing real or made-up information about them. This is also known as “catfishing.”
- Stalking: Electronically “following” someone and sending them targeted messages with the intention of scaring, harming, intimidating, or making them uncomfortable. This is particularly dangerous and may warrant further action from law enforcement.
If You or Your Child Becomes a Victim
If you or someone you have has been a victim of cyberbullying, you are not alone and you are not powerless. According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics about 20 percent of U. S. students from ages 12 to 18 experienced bullying at school. A large portion of this occurred online.
If you want to protect yourself, your child, or another family member from being cyberbullied, check out these tips
Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying
- Act strong and confident. You are stronger than the bully’s negativity, and you will get through this. The more you believe positive affirmations, the more easily you will be able to minimize the noise from bullies.
- Do not take comments to heart. Easier said than done, of course. Surround yourself with people who love you who can remind you of your many amazing qualities.
- Ignore or block cyberbullies. You don’t need that negativity in your life. Reacting may give them the response they crave, so it’s best not to engage.
- Think about deleting social media altogether. Instead of wasting time on social media, spend your time on positive pursuits, such as hobbies, sports, or real friendships.
- Download the FamilyApp. It’s a great resource to chat with friends and family members in a safe, encrypted forum.
- Keep a good record of bullying evidence. Save screenshots, text messages, etc.
- Talk about it. Find an adult you trust, such as a school counselor, parent, or teacher. Or you may be the trusted adult.
- Read up on laws and regulations. Laws regarding cyberbullying vary from state to state. Check on your local laws and contact law enforcement about the next steps you can take. In some cases, you might need to pursue legal action regarding cyberbullying. Know your rights, and if necessary, find a good lawyer.
Cyberbullying Warning Signs
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for kids and teens to admit they’re being cyberbullied. It can often provoke secrecy, shame, and pain. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help to address cyberbullying before it becomes out of control:
- Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations, acting withdrawn
- Frequent complaints of head or stomach aches, feeling sick or feigning illness
- Abruptly stops using a phone or computer or appears angry or depressed after using it
- Changes in diet, eating, or sleeping habits
- Appears nervous or skittish when a notification, text message, or email appears
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, suicidal talk
- Reluctance or refusal to participate in normally enjoyed activities and hobbies
Apps You Should Monitor for Potential Cyberbullying
Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, Youtube, Twitter, and ASKfm are apps with the highest potential for cyberbullying. Apps that include a disappearing message feature like Snapchat and Instagram can be especially dangerous. Users can open unwanted content that immediately disappears. Or, users may send personal inappropriate content that can be saved by another individual, thinking that it will disappear. Remember that once posted or sent on the internet, it never disappears.
We know it can be difficult to keep up with all the new apps kids and teenagers are using, but talk with your child before he or she decides to download a new app. Talk about the potential dangers and issues to be aware of when engaging with others online, especially in the age of technology where privacy has become a huge concern.
Cyberbullying Is A Problem – Teach Your Children About The Consequences
Teenagers often have a skewed sense of sensitivity and awareness- especially when they can’t see the reaction of a person they hurt. Sometimes they see their own behavior as “joking around,” not cyberbullying. Often they don’t think about the consequences for the victims. With the long list of potential issues, cyberbullying has also been known to result in victims’ changing schools and even committing suicide. Talk with your kids and teens about the weight of their words and actions.
Don’t downplay cyberbullying, as “kids being kids,” or “not a big deal.” It can wreak havoc on the victim’s daily life. If you suspect your child is cyberbullying, encourage them to tell the truth about their actions. Talk with them about the consequences of their actions and follow-through.
Sometimes victims may be cyberbullying in retaliation. Talk with your child about how even if they didn’t “start” the issue, they become an equal part of the issue if they respond in turn with bullying. Encourage openness in communication so that you can appropriately address the situation.
Addressing the Problem with Education and Awareness
Parents should teach their children to be careful on the internet and when sending text messages. Educating your family about consequences and safety on the internet is very important. By addressing the issue at its root, remaining educated, and fostering open communication, we can better protect and empower our families. And be sure to download FamilyApp for the safest and most private messenger app out there.