Last updated: August 6, 2020
Cyberbullying: Why it Matters and How to Protect Your Kids
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There was a time when bullying was mostly confined to schoolyards and classrooms where, ideally, it could be effectively diffused and discouraged by teachers and other adults in authority.
But with the rise of the information age, bullying has moved from playgrounds to cyberspace, becoming even more insidious and destructive in the process.
Today, children are spending more and more time with technology, and the internet has become a routine part of their educational and recreational activities.
This increasing dependence on technology means that most children will have to deal with the issue of cyberbullying at some time or another, either as a victim or a victim's champion.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as any form of bullying which occurs through, or is facilitated by, the use of technology and electronic communication.
Cyberbullies typically harass or harm their victims repeatedly, and in a very deliberate manner. It can range from posting rumors about a friend or classmate online to publishing embarrassing texts, photos, or threats on social media outlets.
As technology advances, and social interaction becomes increasingly intertwined with cyberspace, cyberbullying will continue to be an important issue for children and their parents and guardians.
It is incumbent upon all of us to try to better understand cyberbullying, to combat it when it occurs, and to help all children who find themselves on the receiving end.
- What Is Cyberbullying?: prepared by the US government, this is a short introduction to the concept of cyberbullying and its effect on children in their formative years.
- What Is Cyberbullying, Exactly?: from the Cyberbullying Research Center comes this in depth look at cyberbullying and its effect on young children and teens, with supplementary materials for parents and educators.
- 11 Facts about Cyberbullying: an overview of the current statistics for cyberbullying in the United States, looking at both its prevalence and effects on victims.
Forms of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying comes in many different forms, running the gamut from harassing emails and text messages to flaming. Cyberbullies will often threaten the victim, post humiliating rumors about them, or reveal personal information with the intent of shaming or defaming them in a public forum.
In extreme cases cyberbullies will go so far as to create fake online profiles in order to harass their victims anonymously. More often then not, online bullying occurs on social media and plays to the kind of gang mentality that can result in mass bullying of a particular victim.
Children and teens who are the victims of cyberbullying typically know the bully in real life. The bullies may be classmates or former friends.
With the rise of social media and smartphones, it is easier than ever for cyberbullies to reach their intended targets, affecting every part of their victims' lives and causing deep emotional issues.
- Common Forms of Cyberbullying: from the Violence Prevention Network comes this short review of the most common forms of cyberbullying, their unique characteristics, and warning signs associated with instances of cyberbullying.
How Cyberbullying Affects Victims
Cyberbullying is, in effect, a severe form of psychological abuse, and as such can cause both short term and long term damage to the victim.
Because children and teenagers are often hesitant to talk about what they're experiencing, it can be difficult for them to process and deal with the effects of cyberbullying.
While all children are at risk, those who suffer from mental health issues are more prone to being seriously affected by cyberbullying.
Research tells us that victims of cyberbullying can suffer from a range of issues, including lowered self-esteem, depression, fear, anger, and frustration.
Quite often victims will begin to isolate themselves, pulling away from friends, family, and primary support groups. In extreme cases, the affects of cyberbullying can be so destructive that the victim may resort to suicide.
- Cyberbullying and Its Effect on Our Youth: from the American Osteopathic Association comes this brief overview of cyberbullying and its effect on children, with an emphasis on both the physical and mental health of the victim.
- What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying?: this is a fairly detailed guide to the most common effects of cyberbullying, their effect on children and teenagers, and how to recognize and respond to bullying behavior.
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
There are steps that children and parents can take to prevent cyberbullying. Parents should take time to talk to their children about cyberbullying, and establish firm rules for using technology so children know exactly what they can and can not do and what sites they should not visit.
Parents also need to keep a close watch on their child's online activities and employ electronic parental controls when needed.
Because cyberbullying often originates outside of the home, parents should also make a point to check with their child's school to see what policies are in place to combat cyberbullying.
Above all, parents should try to ensure that their children feel comfortable speaking to them about problems they may be facing with bullying of any type so they know they have a safe and loving support group at home.
- What Can You Do to Prevent Cyberbullying?: this short article discusses a parent's role in preventing cyberbullying, both at home an in their community.
- Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying: from Connect Safely (a non-profit internet safety group and host of the US Safe Internet Day celebration) comes this informative article on the prevention of cyberbullying. It includes tips for both parents and kids on how to respond to instances of online bullying.
- 18 Tips to Stop Cyberbullying: this comprehensive look at cyberbullying includes tips for parents, children, and teachers on how to avoid, prevent, and respond to instances of online bullying.
- Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying: this essay from the National PTA presents down to earth advice on how parents can prevent cyberbullying both at home and in conjunction with their child's school.
Is Your Child a Cyberbully?
While it is vitally important for parents to learn to recognize the signs of cyberbullying in victims, it is equally important to learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of the cyberbullies themselves.
In many cases, though certainly not all, cyberbullies will have a history of real-life bullying. In others, they may simply be the victims of peer pressure, making the poor decision to join in on the bullying of a friend or classmate without realizing the consequences.
Some of the signs that a child may be engaged in cyberbullying include extended time spent on social media, becoming secretive about online activities, aggressive behavior both online and in real life, and becoming mean to, or overly critical, of others.
The first thing parents of a cyberbully must understand is that their child's behavior is not necessarily a reflection on their parenting skills.
That being said, it is the parent's responsibility to step in and address the situation quickly and firmly. Parents need to talk to their children frankly about bullying and its effect on the victim.
They also need to lay down strict rules for internet use and enforce them. In extreme cases, parents should also consider getting outside help to deal with the issue, either from a school counselor or other mental healthcare professional.
- Is Your Child Cyberbullying?: this informative article looks at the most common characteristics of a cyberbully, how to recognize them, and what to do if your child is engaged in online bullying.
- What Should I Do If My Child Is a Cyberbully?: this short article provides some simple tips on how to deal with a child who is engaged in cyberbullying. The author provides talking points to initiate parent and child discussions of cyberbullying and its effects.
- How Can I Determine Whether My Kid Is a Cyberbully?: this short piece discusses the tell-tale signs of cyberbullying and how to recognize them in your children.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue, and like any form of bullying it can have long-term effects on its victims.
As technology continues to become an increasingly large part of our daily lives, and the lives of our children, it is important to recognize the dangers of cyberbullying and to take definite steps to prevent it.
Parents, teachers, and children must work together to prevent cyberbullying and to make the internet a safer place for all. Children should be educated on what to do and who to go to in the event that they encounter a cyberbully.
And parents should encourage schools to update their technology policies to help prevent instances of online bullying. With parents, children, and educators working together we can decrease the instances of cyberbullying and create a safer and more rewarding online environment for all of our children.
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related children, education, and technology:
- Educational Websites for Kids: dozens of fun and educational websites for children.
- Parent's Guide to Internet Safety: five different infographics on keeping your children safe while online.
- A+ Math Student Guide and Resources: this guide provides tons of resources to help your children conquer math!
High Tech Solutions to Schoolyard Bullying
Where technology can make problems worse, it can also help to solve them. Check out our infographic, High Tech Solutions to Schoolyard Bullying.