Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen, or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet (MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter) interactive and digital technologies (Skype), or mobile phones. It has to have a child on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a child against another child.
Once adults become involved, it is defined as cyber-harassment or cyber stalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyber stalking is NEVER referred to as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis.
Cyberbullying can take place in many forms, examples may include the following:
- Sending mean messages or threats to a person's email account or cell phone
- Spreading rumors online or through texts
- Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
- Stealing a person's account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
- Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
- Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
- Sexting or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person
Unfortunately, in most cases, cyber bullying goes unreported by adolescents and teens, and unnoticed by adults.
Other Names and Terms: Cyber stalking, cyber harassment, cyber threats
Trends Concerning Cyber Bullying:
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber bullying online (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or e-mail).
- Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Over 50% of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
- Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement.
- 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of them without their or their parents’ knowledge or permission. Often these pictures are taken using cell phone cameras.
- About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to someone else.
- Girls are more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying, serving as both cyber bullies and victims.
- Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, therefore, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying.
- Cyber bullying affects all races.
Key Points of Discussion:
- If you discover that your child is being cyber bullied, be sure to discuss it with them. Get the all of the important details in regards to the cyber bullying. Offer assurance that it's not your child's fault. Talking to school administrators, school counselors, and teachers also may help.
- Many schools, school districts, and after-school clubs have established protocols for responding to cyber bullying; these vary by district and state. Before reporting the problem, discuss your intents with your student. As he or she could have concerns about "tattling" or being a snitch and prefer the problem be handled at home.
- Block your student’s availability to the cyber bully. Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block emails, IMs, or text messages from specific people. If the cyber bullying continues after blocking has occurred, report that contact to the authorities.
- Many kids who are bullied cannot resist the temptation to check web sites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computers and laptops in a public place in the house (family room, living room, and kitchen) and limit the use of cell phones and online games. Some online media companies allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours.
- Know who your students are in their online world. Check their postings and the sites they visit. Be aware of how they spend their time online and know their online friends. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it is a bad idea to share personal information online. Encourage them to safeguard passwords, and require they share their passwords with you.
- Tell children to get an adult involved as soon as the bullying starts. Start talking early, especially with the purchase of cell phone or laptop. Cyber bullying can start with children as young as 8 or 9 years old.
Talking to Children: Use the following tips to discuss the topic of cyber bullying with your children:
- Ages 5-7- Make sure they know the difference between bullying and being mean. Bullying is consistent and pervasive, meaning it happens more than once and is felt everywhere. Being mean can happen more than once but is not consistent or pervasive. In other words, a person may be in a bad mood and take it out on another. This may happen more than once, but not on a daily/weekly basis. Give them real life examples. Making sure your kids know the difference will help them know whether or not to get an adult involved.
- Ages 5-11- Start talking to your student early about internet safety. Chances are your children know a lot more about the internet than you realize. Access to the internet is everywhere. If you are not familiar with the internet, enlist the help of your child’s teacher, counselor, and/or other school professional.
- Ages 5-7- Keep the lines of communication open with your children. Talk with your children on a daily basis to find out how their life at school is. Ask about their friends, what they are doing during lunch, recess, and any other extra time they have to interact with other students outside of class.
- Ages 5-11- Keep the lines of communication open with your children. Talk with your children on a daily basis to find out how their life at school is. Ask about their friends, what they are doing during lunch, recess, and any other extra time they have to interact with other students outside of class. Whether or not they have an account, ask them about the latest Facebook news. Casual conversation leads to a lot of helpful information which will keep you informed about your child.
- Ages 5-11- Make sure your child knows it is important to get an adult involved as soon as the cyber-bullying begins. Although children fear retaliation due to telling an adult, there are ways of keeping confidentiality while investigating. Enlisting the help of school professionals, counselors, principals, assistant principals, is the best key.
- Ages 5-11- If your child is the target of a cyber bully make sure you do not make them feel like a victim. You and other school professionals can help them overcome the harassment, the scary and sad feelings they may be experiencing, and make them stronger by arming them with skills instead of back lashing. Teach them back lashing is exactly what bullies are looking for. Educating your children on how to react in a positive and proactive manner instead of a negative reactive manner can make all the difference.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs: Risk factors and warning signs may be used to identify children who are more at risk of cyber-bullying than others.
- Children who have a computer in their bedroom are more susceptible to online predators than those who do not. Set up your computer in a family room where your child’s online behavior can be easily monitored.
- Children who do not know about online safety. Teach your children they should never share any personal information online: phone number, home address, school address, personal pictures, etc. Also, make sure your children know they should never meet an online “friend” in person. Share factual stories with them about the dangers of meeting cyber “friends” in person.
- Children who are free to use the internet however they choose. Make a list of internet rules, and make sure children understand the consequences if these rules are broken. Also, make sure you limit their online use daily.
- Children who abruptly stop using the computer/internet. Ask your child about what has caused them to lose interest in the computer/internet. Ask open-ended questions like:
- What made you want to stop using your computer?
- What is your least favorite thing about using your computer?
- Children who seem scared or nervous while on the computer.
- Children who seem scared, nervous, or angry after using the computer.
- Children who abruptly lose interest in going to school.
- Children who lose interest in family activities and or socializing with their peers.