While studies have reported a decline in bullying and violent behavior in schools in recent years, cyberbullying continues to pose a threat to children and teens across the country.
Cyberbullying occurs when individuals use technology and electronic devices to send mean, threatening, or embarrassing messages to, or about, another person. These messages can take the form of text messages, emails, fake profiles, or photos and videos shared to social media.
Cyberbullying has a wider audience than traditional bullying, and can spread more quickly. It can also be anonymous, which sometimes makes the effects even more distressing. An estimated 70% of students report viewing frequent bullying online, with bullying victims 2-9xs more likely to consider committing suicide.
Targets of cyberbullying often feel like they can’t get away from the bullying. If someone is bullying your child at school, when they leave for the day, it’s over. However, cyberbullying is 24/7 so it often follows the victim home.
What can your child do to help prevent cyberbullying?
- Never share passwords, private photos, or personal data (such as an address or phone number) online, not even with friends.
- Think before they post. If they’re upset, sad, or angry, teach them to wait to post or respond. Tell them to take some time to cool down, so they don’t do something they can’t take back.
- Never publicly reveal anything that they wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone knowing. Parents should remind their children that when they share something online, it can be shared with anyone, including their parents and teachers.
- Remember the “Golden Rule”: when your child makes comments about someone else, tell them to imagine how they would feel if someone said that about them.
How should parents address cyberbullying?
According to the 2014-2015 School Crime Supplement, it’s estimated that about 21% of students age 12-18 have or will experience cyberbullying. Parents should have a honest conversation with their children, and encourage them to open up about what’s going on in their lives online.
If your child feels that they are the victim of online harassment, the first thing they can do is to begin to save emails, messages, posts, and screenshots of the bullying. Messages can be printed out or saved on a computer or phone until they can be addressed with a parent, administrator, teacher, or counselor.
Social media and websites also have ways of reporting harassing content. You can often report incidents of cyberbullying to “safety centers” to have the offensive content removed.
Checklist: If Your Child Sees It Happen
- Don’t participate. Tell your child not to “like” or share posts that are bullying someone. Although your child may feel pressure to join in if a lot of other people are, tell them they can make their own decision, and not contribute to the situation.
- Report it. Even if the content isn’t targeting your child, they can still report it to the site, or an adult that they trust.
- Respond with positive support. If your child feels comfortable, and if it’s safe to do so, they can post a comment showing unity with the victim. Imagine what a difference one nice comment among a bunch of mean ones could make.
- Reach out to the person being bullied. Encourage your child to send the person being bullied a private message letting them know that they don’t agree with what’s happening, that they don’t deserve to be treated like that and that they’re not alone.