Dealing with Cyberbullying

Chad Bennett

January 18, 2016

A cyberbully is anyone who uses digital communications to harass or torment another person. There will always be those who bully in-person by physical or verbal means, but the accessibility of digital communication platforms make cyberbullying a 24 hour problem. The effects of it are numerous but so are the options of dealing with cyberbullying to overcome it.

Why Cyberbullying is a Growing Concern

Widespread access to digital communication platforms such as text, email, instant messaging or social media as well as the relative anonymity of using these platforms make cyberbullying just as bad and in many cases worse than direct encounters.

Junior high and high school aged kids are most affected by cyberbullying. With roughly 84% of teens aged 13-17 having smartphones as of 2014 (up 59% from 2013), it’s much easier for them to participate in private digital bullying which means the problem will only get worse. The impersonal nature, relative anonymity and quick access to digital platforms via smartphone, computer or tablet usually allows the bully to be more aggressive and vicious than they would be through traditional forms of bullying. To make things worse, the fact that it’s digital allows the bully to spread the misfortune of their victim far and wide, making the impact on the victim worse than a private, personal encounter.

How to Protect Your Children

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests applying as many of the following as you can to limit your child from becoming a cyberbully or being the victim of one:

  • Teach your children good online habits – Teach your children the risks of technology, and how to be responsible online (see Keeping Children Safe Online for more information). Reduce the risk of children becoming cyberbullies by setting guidelines for and monitoring their use of the internet and other electronic media (cell phones, PDAs, etc.).
  • Keep lines of communication open – Regularly talk to your children about their online activities so that they feel comfortable telling you about their online interactions.
  • Watch for warning signs – If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, try to identify the cause as soon as possible. If cyberbullying is involved, acting early can limit the damage.
    • Changes in behavior could include:
      • Using alcohol and drugs
      • Skipping school
      • Experiencing in-person bullying
      • Unwilling to attend school
      • Receiving poor grades
      • Having lowered self-esteem
      • Having more health problems
  • Limit availability of personal information – Limiting the number of people who have access to contact information or details about interests, habits, or whereabouts reduces exposure to bullies that you or your child do not know. This may limit the risk of becoming a victim and may make it easier to identify the bully if your child is victimized.
  • Avoid escalating the situation – Responding with hostility is likely to provoke a bully and escalate the situation. Depending on the circumstances, consider ignoring the issue. Other options include subtle actions. For example, you may be able to block the messages on social networking sites or stop unwanted emails by changing the email address. If you continue to get messages at the new email address, you may have a stronger case for legal action.
  • Document the activity – Keep a record of any online activity (emails, web pages, instant messages, etc.), including relevant dates and times. In addition to archiving an electronic version, consider printing a copy.
  • Report cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities – If you or your child are being harassed or threatened, report the activity. Many schools have instituted bullying programs, so school officials may have established policies for dealing with activity that involves students. If necessary, contact your local law enforcement. Find other reporting options here.
Dealing with Cyberbullying Starts with Knowledge. Learn More Below.

What is cyberbullying?

How do I prevent cyberbullying?

How do I report cyberbullying?

Risk factors for becoming a bully or a victim.

Warning signs that someone is a victim of cyberbullying.

The effects of bullying.

How to respond to bullying.

How to get help.

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