WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
Cyberbullying is defined as repeated, deliberate online harassment using social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. It is a pattern of calculated behavior intended to harm the victim. In order to protect your child from the negative effects cyberbullying, such as lowered self-esteem, depression and anxiety, and to ensure your child is not a perpetrator of cyberbullying, you need to be preventative, not reactive.
Cyberbullying is a fairly recent means by which kids harass other kids. Although bullying itself has historically been a part of a child’s social landscape, cyberbullying is different and requires a more comprehensive parenting approach.
Generations of youth before had ways to get away from and to consciously avoid a bully. Before the days of cell phones and social media, we could choose to circumvent kids who were mean at school or on the playground, and more importantly, we knew that home was our safe haven. Today’s victims have no escape because cyberbullying can happen anywhere and at anytime.
- 87% of children have witnessed cyberbullying, a 60% increase from the prior year.
- 50% of children have been involved in an argument because of something posted on social media, a 51% increase from the prior year.
- 49% of kids have regretted something they have posted online.
- 77% of kids report cyberbullying is because of their looks.
- 24% of children report that they would not know what to do if they were bullied online.
Girls are twice as likely to be victims and twice as likely to be perpetrators. The difference between boys and girls is most likely due to the discrepancy in the fundamental ways they relate to each other. Girls tend to be much more passive aggressive, using emotional tactics to cause harm, while boys tend to be more aggressive, choosing physical bullying over online bullying.
Cyberbullying causes significant emotional distress, but the powerlessness many teens feel might just be one of the most damaging effects. There is no escape for the victim, they can be harassed at home, at school and at any time of the day and because information on social media can reach large audiences very quickly, the feelings of shame and humiliation are magnified.
If a teen needs to escape the online harassment, that means they have to cut off the most important means of social communication with their peers, which leads to increased isolation, depression and anxiety.
Children who are bullied have often have at least one of the following risk factors:
- Are perceived as weak or introverted.
- Are perceived as different from their peers, either too smart, too overweight, too straight.
- Are less popular than their peers and have fewer friends.
- Have low self esteem, are depressed or anxious.
What can parents do to help?
The best answer is to prevent it. Because only 10% of teens are willing to tell an adult if they are being cyberbullied, the smartest parenting approach is to get in front of the problem. You can’t stop it if you don’t know about it, and using a parenting tool like Social Judo is the only way, in real time, you can know what challenges your child is facing.
Despite parents best efforts to educate their children, the rates of cyberbullying are on the rise. Communicating with your child about the issue is simply not enough. Teaching safe internet use or attempts to limit screen time are not nearly as effective as real time parenting. In order to be able to respond and parent your child around cyberbullying, you need to have access to what your child is doing online.
Victims of bullying are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, to skip school, to have lower self esteem and are more likely to consider suicide.
If your kids know you are watching how they communicate online, they will certainly behave better. After all, almost half of teens surveyed said they would do just that.