Twenty first century bullying has evolved into producing cyberbullies who use electronics against their victims. Emails, text messages, voice mail, social networking, blog posts, and even gaming systems are new ways in which cyberbullies can attack their victims. These actions are harsher than traditional bullying. Cruel or intimidating messages reach the victim quickly and spread to a wider audience than they ever could have in the past. The consequences for children are harsher, too. We’ve put together a list of cyberbullying FAQs and tips for families.
How often does cyberbullying happen?
Statistics vary, but estimates state that as many as 40% of all teens will be the victims of a “cyberbully.” Keep in mind that, while the numbers are lower among pre-teens and college students, they can be victims, too.
What does cyberbullying look like?
Any action designed to hurt or embarrass another person via technology is technically considered cyberbullying. It can take many different forms: chronic texts and/or voice mail, threatening emails, specific web pages or social media groups attacking a specific person or group are all examples.
Kids pick on each other all the time. Is this really such a big deal?
Yes. Cyberbullying can have devastating effects on an individual and a community as a whole. New state laws went into effect this past summer, strengthening current harassment and discrimination laws and adding specific consequences for cyberbullying. It is a criminal offense. Perpetrators can be found even if they are operating under a pseudonym.
Schools are now required to act when cases are reported, even if the incident takes place off-campus. Typically, school counselors or teachers will try and mediate the issue, but if it is not resolved, cyberbullies risk punitive action. Additionally, social media sites, YouTube, and web page servers have explicit bans on cyberbullying; those that engage in cyberbullying behavior risk having their accounts shut down permanently.
What are some of the affects of cyberbullying for the victim?
Chronic absences, poor grades, low self-esteem, anxiety, feelings of intense loneliness, sadness, or depression can occur. Some victims experience anger and want to get revenge on the perpetrators. Cyberbullying has been the cause of an increasing number of teen suicides and incidents of school violence.
Tips for Parents to Prevent Cyberbullying
- Reiterate lessons from early childhood. “Treat people as you want to be treated” applies to the internet, too. Phone numbers or other contact information should not be given to strangers. Passwords should not be shared with anyone.
- Monitor internet use. This can be done in a few ways: by placing family computers in a busy part of the house, by double-checking cell-phone bills, or even by installing spyware. Install filters so that inappropriate content is inaccessible. Understanding how to use your child’s technology is important.
- Look for warning signs. If your child’s internet usage patterns change drastically, monitor them. This change, when seen in conjunction with personality changes, may indicate that your child is either the victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying.
- Model appropriate behavior. Kids take their cues from parents. Refrain from harassing or making inappropriate comments while online.
- Educate children on appropriate internet behaviors. Let them know that problems are created when technology is used incorrectly. Read “terms of service” agreements with them. They should fully understand what is expected of them. Reviewing privacy settings together also helps kids understand what others can see.
- Let them know that inaction is not an option. Many times bullying goes unaddressed because adults do not realize that it’s happening. School officials will not use a specific child’s name if they report an incident; they can remain anonymous while the issue is being investigated. They can also report offensive posts, groups or sites directly to the content provider.
Cyberbullying is pervasive among school-age children, but community involvement will curb the issue. Here are some local resources that can be used to help combat this problem:
The Nassau County District Attorney – This office provides opportunities to report cyberbullying, provides a list of bullying coordinators in each Long Island school and gives information on suicide prevention. www.stopbullyingli.org
Long Island Crisis Center – This center provides crisis intervention, counseling, and educational resources. www.longislandcrisiscenter.org
New York State’s “Dignity for All Students Act” – This act strives to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function. www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact
By Rachel Minkowsky