While technology is incredible in a myriad of ways, it has given bullies a whole new platform to showcase their innate desire to hurt other people.
Bullies have been around forever, and in the good old days, they couldn’t expand their craft beyond the playground, the school bus, or the occasional random meeting in town. The home was always a safe zone and a sacred place. There were rules. Fast forward to the era of digital technology that’s consistently online, and you have keyboard bullies reaching their victims even at home.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the faceless evil that uses technology to hurt, humiliate, harass, embarrass, or otherwise intimidate another person. It comes in many shapes and sizes: hateful speech, trolling, sexual remarks, and leaking personal photos or details online.
Social networking has made it almost effortless to find personal information about anyone these days. A simple email lookup online, for instance, can uncover plenty of details about a person. Technology is excellent, but when used for cyberbullying and other crimes, it can cause a lot of pain.
Let’s take a quick look at cyberbullying statistics to paint a picture of what parents and kids are up against:
- Eighty percent of kids use a mobile phone and own several social networking accounts.
- Thirty-four percent of children in the U.S. were victims of cyberbullying at least once.
- Only 38 percent of kids victimized by cyberbullying tell their parents about it.
- Thirty-three percent of young victims sent or exchanged explicit text or photos to another person online at least once.
- Out of 1,000 cyberbullying victims in high school, 210 are girls with different skin color.
Ignoring the Toxic Effects of Cyberbullying can be Devastating For Children
The internet never sleeps, and the technology-driven bully can torment victims all-day every day. As long as a child has access to a phone or computer with internet access, there’s no escape, and they’re always at risk. Frequent cyberbullying is a frightening menace in a lot of ways. The effects on kids and teens vary from a decline in academic performance to suicide when bullying is severe. That’s why parents need to pay attention to their child’s internet safety to protect them from unwanted effects and situations.
Kids choose to end their own lives because they feel there’s no escape from cyberbullying, and they don’t feel safe even at home. Both the victims and cyberbullies can suffer from stress-related disorders such as depression and anxiety due to severe, constant cyberbullying. Bullied kids and bullies are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Parents: Watch Out for Signs of Cyberbullying
Most bullied kids don’t report cyberbullying incidents to their parents or teachers. They either fear that their computer privileges will be revoked or because of the social stigma attached to being a victim. Parents must be vigilant in noticing the signs of cyberbullying in their kids, which may include the following:
- Shows anxiety or becomes jumpy when receiving a text, instant message, or email.
- Avoidance of family, group, or school gatherings.
- Suddenly becomes emotionally upset during or after using the phone or going online.
- Declining grades in school and angry behavior at home.
- Protective and secretive behavior when it comes to his or her digital life.
- Shows noticeable mood swings, changes in behavior, appetite, and sleeping patterns.
- Doesn’t want to talk about computer or online activities.
- The child seems withdrawn from friends, family members, and activities that he or she used to love doing.
- Declarations of wanting to “take a break” or to stop using the computer or phone.
For Kids: Tips to Stop Cyberbullying
You have the power to stop cyberbullying in its tracks. Here are a few tips that can help.
Know the Signs
Educate yourself on what cyberbullying is and how to recognize the signs, so you can avoid being a victim and help others when you see it happening.
Don’t react and retaliate
Bullies are looking to get a reaction from you, so don’t respond or engage them. Reacting will only encourage bad behavior. Ignoring a bully and not giving them the satisfaction of goading a response from you raises the chances that they’ll leave you alone. If a bully calls you names and you respond in kind, you become one yourself! Getting revenge is not the answer.
Collect Cyberbullying Evidence
Since cyberbullying happens via technology, you can document the crime and keep it as evidence. If a bully is sending you mean texts or harassing you online, take a screenshot and show it to your parents.
Talk to an Adult You can Trust
If you experience cyberbullying, talk to your parents or your school counselor. Adults know how to handle your situation, and there’s nothing to worry about. Ask an adult at your school if there’s a way to report a bullying incident anonymously if you’re afraid of other kids knowing you talked to someone.
Practice Good Computer Hygiene
It would be best if you practiced good hygiene when it comes to computers and the internet.
- Use a strong password and never share it with anyone except your parents for emergencies. Not even your best friend can know what your password is!
- Always log out of your accounts, especially when using a public computer.
- Be careful of what you share online (posts, videos, photos) because once it goes on the internet, it’ll be there forever.
- Never click on a link in messages or open emails from people you don’t know. These could have viruses or lead to inappropriate content.
Final Words for Parents
Learning how to spot the early signs of cyberbullying is the best way to stop it early. If your child is showing abnormal mood swings, it could be something more serious. Empower your kids by educating them on what cyberbullying is, what the signs are, and what they need to do when they encounter it. Always be there for them and try to be their friend so they won’t have a hard time opening up to you.