Kids growing up now are living different lives than their parents. The Internet and social media have created an entirely different environment and new ways to socialize and connect with others. Modern children spend a lot of time online playing games, emailing and chatting with friends. Most of this technology is not a bad thing, but out of it has come something dark, cyberbullying.
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What Is Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the same abusive behavior as regular bullying, but it takes place online, in social media and through texts and emails to kids cell phones. It is pervasive and rampant among young people today. Some examples of cyberbullying are:
- Sending mean or threatening emails or texts to someone.
- Rating people on a scale from ugly to good looking and posting it online.
- Posting unwanted pictures or information about someone online for others to see.
- Excluding someone from your online group.
- Sending personal information to others that someone trusted you with.
- Hacking someone’s social media or email account and posting embarrassing things for others to see and make fun of about you.
This behavior is not only hurtful and damaging it is a leading cause of teen suicide. Although both girls and boys participate in cyberbullying, they do so in different ways. Girls use gossip and spread rumors where boys tend to threaten.
The adverse effects of cyberbullying may include poor grades, decreased social interaction or depression, low self-esteem and even dangerous behaviors such as cutting or suicide attempts.
Frequency of Cyberbullying
A staggering 43% of teens have been cyberbullied in their lifetime. There is an unwritten code of understanding among kids that think cyberbullying is funny until it happens to you. 20% claim that someone pretending to be someone other than who they were tricked them into revealing private information.
Of all the cyberbullying that takes place, young adults and children perpetrate 63% of it. Unfortunately due to social norms as “snitching” a lot of the abuse goes unreported and unchecked. Only 11% ever report the abuse to parents or teachers.
Another shocking statistic is that 80% of kids do not have Internet restrictions at home or they can circumvent them easily. Unfortunately, this adds fuel to the fire when it comes to cyberbullying. 30% of teens who are cyberbullied want to get revenge.
What to Do if Your Teen is Bullied
Parents must teach their kids the dangers of the world, but one area where parental guidance is lacking is Internet safety and cyberbullying. The best protection against it is to inform your kids that it exists and teach them how to prevent or deal with it.
- Stress the importance of using strong passwords and never sharing them with anyone.
- Make sure your teen knows that the door is always open for them to talk to you about anything. Tell them that if they are a victim of cyberbullying it is not their fault and you can help.
- If your teen is cyberbullied, take detailed notes and document the incidents then report it to the authorities.
- Instruct your teens not to respond to bullies and never try to retaliate.
- Show them how to block accounts and keep those bullies quiet.
- Teach your children how to report cyberbullying on social media sites, moderators and your ISP.
If your teens have been bullied, you can contact the sites below for more information and to report the abuse.
Due to this growing and serious problem, many communities are offering free resources and training on how to keep your kids safe from cyberbullying. Local police stations, education departments, and other community groups hold seminars and can help direct you and your kids on how best to handle this problem. Some of the materials you may encounter are:
- An Internet use agreement that you and your children discuss and sign to keep online use safe and positive.
- Establish strict guidelines about Internet use and screen time.
- As parents learn as much as you can about the technology and software, your kids are using. Monitor their usage and communications and be honest about why.
- Become involved in your school policy on cyberbullying.
- Sponsor events that promote awareness and prevention of cyberbullying.
Teen suicide is on the rise as a direct result of cyberbullying. Stories like these below show how prevalent this problem is and how devastating to kids and family all over the U.S.
Ryan Halligan, a thirteen-year-old boy, killed himself after being harassed by other boys from school on AOL. Ryan was a natural comedian and told some of the boys a funny but embarrassing story, and a cyberbully ran with it and spread rumors all over the school that Ryan was gay. The abuse continued throughout the summer of 2003 until Ryan could not take it anymore and he ended his life. As a result, his father is committed to educating and preventing cyberbullying in his community.
Another teen, Jessica Logan sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. After they broke up, he sent it to everyone in the school, thoroughly humiliating and devastating this shy, Ohio girl. The other girls harassed Jessica calling her names and eliminating her from social events. Jessica’s grades dropped, she became withdrawn and eventually hung herself. Before ending her life, Jessica shared her story with a Cincinnati television station to promote awareness and help others who might be suffering.
Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.
In 2012, Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. took his own life after being harassed and threatened online for being gay. Kenneth’s classmates first start abusing him through an anti-gay Facebook group then escalated to threats of violence. Kenneth’s family said the abuse started after he “came out” to family and close friends. Friends that had once supported him turned on him and became attackers.
A fifteen-year-old Irish immigrant named Phoebe Prince hung herself in Massachusetts after an onslaught of cyberbullying about a spring dance and her choice of date. Phoebe was a new student and was harassed and abused for being Irish. Racial slurs and bullying took place for months before she ended her life, two days before the winter cotillion.
Sadly this is only a small sampling of the dozens of stories every day that occur in the U.S. because of cyberbullying.
Preventing or Stopping Cyberbullying According To NCPC.org
The best way to prevent or stop cyberbullying is to block those users who are harassing you. More than 70% of the teens who used this technique said it was effective in stopping the abuse.
If you are a teen or someone who is being cyberbullied, these are things you can do to stop the abuse:
- Report it to a trusted adult (teacher, parent or older sibling).
- Save all the messages as evidence to show authorities, don’t delete anything.
- Keep notes of everything that happened and don’t respond to the bully.
- Do not share the messages or forward them to anyone else.
- Have your parents help you report the abuse to the website, ISP or moderator for the online resource you are using.
- Know that no one deserves to be cyberbullied and you did nothing wrong.
- Do not participate in cyberbullying anyone else.
- If you know someone else is being bullied, talk to an adult about it so they can help.
- Promote awareness in your school and attend events that educate and provide resources to teens and adults.
- Start anti-bullying campaigns in your local community.
Cyberbullying is not just a teen problem; it is a community issue we all suffer from when kids who cannot take the abuse any longer find no other alternative than to end their lives. Parents, teachers, and students must all work together to stop this tragic problem before more lives are lost.