Everyone who has a child wants to protect them from distress; today’s child though has more opportunities to be bullied than any other generation. With the birth of social media and access to mass communication through electronic devices, bullies have new ways to intimidate other kids. One of the first questions parents need to ask themselves is how to protect their kids from this kind of threat. As with everything in life the first step is to be educated in the Tactics Of Cyberbullies so you can know how to prevent them. To help parents we have also included several tips for each one on how to prevent or stop them from happening to your child.
According to Internet safety 101, the top tactics of cyberbullies are:
Tactics of Cyberbullies #1: Exclusion
This is where a specific group is set up and the child being targeted is excluded from it in a public way. These groups usually take place in social media settings such as Facebook and the posts by the group can be public or private. They will make certain posts public so they can be observed by others the exclusion going on.
What to do: Most social media sites have a way to block certain persons or groups. As soon as something pops up that appears to be excluding your child, start by blocking the head of the group. This will keep your child from seeing what is going on and it will also take away power from the group being created. This takes the wind out of their sails and typically the group will dissolve before the harm is done.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #2: Impersonation
Online sites are easily fabricated with the right information. If your child does not protect their online identity it can lead to devastating results. With impersonation, a bully can set up an identical site with false information, or photographs, or send damaging messages under the guise of being the child. This can be one of the most devastating tactics because of the difficulty of tracking who is behind it. Another form of impersonation can also involve monetary resources. If enough information is gathered such as passwords to accounts someone can cause financial hardship to your child by purchasing products with their own accounts or under fraudulent accounts they create in your child’s name.
What to do: Teach your child how to protect their personal information. Children often do not realize how important their online reputation is. Ensure they keep their passwords and their safety answers to themselves. Parents should also be in the know so they can take action if needed. According to DoSomething.org, only 1 in 10 children will tell an adult regarding cyberbullying so it may be up to you as a parent to keep up with what sites your child spends time on. Immediately report any fraud to the proper authorities and show them the proof you found.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #3: Harassment
Repeatedly sending or posting harmful, vulgar, or rude comments to upset the child. This can happen on a larger scale than it used to be due to new technological advances. Instead of sending or posting one message at a time, it is now possible to “bomb” someone’s phone, email, or media site with messages. This takes harassment to the next level and can cause an even greater level of distress to the victim. By flooding someone’s device the culprit can make use of it as a source of stress and tension instead of a helpful tool.
What to do: Again blocking the culprit can stop many of these from getting through. If the harasser has multiple accounts being created as you block them you may need to delete your account and start up a new one. The faster you take action against it the quicker you cut the harasser’s ties. Often times you can also file a complaint against the user sending messages with the carrier and they will cut off the account as well.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #4: Cyberstalking
This can overlap harassment in that it usually involves multiple messages and persistent contact. The twist to cyberstalking is usually in the intent behind the actions. The Women’s Resource Center from the University in Houston describes it as, “a pattern of harassing behaviours intended to frighten, intimidate, terrorize, or injure another person.” This makes stalking a bit more serious and has the possibility of being more harmful to your child. Where harassment is typically used to annoy and defame the victim, stalking is used to threaten the individual and uses multiple means of ensuring the victim feels unsafe.
What to do: Due to the nature of cyberstalking, I recommend taking immediate action at the first signs. Talk with your local police department to see if they have the ability to help protect and provide safety in some form for your child. If for some reason they are unable to help it may be necessary to delete all profiles the stalker has access to as soon as possible. It is not recommended to reply to the threats as they typically will only add fuel to the fire, however, do keep a record so in the future you can build a case against whoever the bully may be. Having proof can help shield your child if the threats increase or continue regardless of changing accounts. If the local authorities can not provide help, contact a lawyer and see if there is any legal counsel they can provide.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #5: Flaming
Think of this as an online public argument. It usually involves profanity and takes place in a public forum with as many bystanders as possible. This gives the perpetrator exactly what they want, an audience. Often times the person behind the bullying is acting out specifically to gain recognition as superior to the person they are belittling. The argument can be centred around any topic but will be set up to frustrate and demean anyone who disagrees with them.
What to do: Teach your child how to recognize the start of this type of argument and how to avoid being caught up in the whirlwind of this bully’s devices. Discussion can be healthy for children to learn other people’s perspectives but it should not be at the expense of their self-esteem. If someone is trying to lure them into this type of flaming argument teach your child to leave the conversation before the situation escalates.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #6: Outing and Trickery
Deception plays a big role in this tactic. With the use of electronic devices, it can be much easier to deceive or trick someone into giving out personal information. It can also be when the person behind the mistreatment will egg on the kid to say something and then use the statement out of context. This is then used to defame the child and increase the perceived dominance of the bully.
What to do: Prevention is key to this one. Teach your child to view every electronic conversation as something being shared with the entire world. If they keep this in mind it will help them to understand the importance of their words. With this in mind, the child develops a safe avoidance of topics which could potentially put them in danger. Also, ensure they know how to change their passwords if they feel too much information was given away or if they believe someone may hack into their online accounts.
Tactics of Cyberbullies #7: Cyber threats
This encapsulates any posting or remark in which threats of physical violence are used. Whether the violence is toward the intended target child or towards hurting themselves, the threat is used to gain access to whatever the aggressor is asking for. Often times if the provoker is unsuccessful in their threats against the other child they will turn the threats inward and use the guilt of the self-inflicted violence to change the other kid’s mind into helping them.
What to do: If you are monitoring your child’s account and you see the threats inform the other child’s parent or the proper local authorities to take a closer look at the situation. Support your child’s decision to not give in to threats made by the bully. If they are threatening to hurt themselves get other people involved to help the child out to help ensure the safety of everyone involved. Teach your child to not make decisions built on guilt, instead teach them when it is time to reach out and get help when other people’s lives are threatened.
Remember the most important thing you as a parent can do is to stay in communication with your own child regarding the dangers of bullying. If they refuse to talk about it with you then give them options of other responsible adults they can go to, such as a school counsellor, a trusted friend of the family, or an anonymous hotline they can call. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which accepts and helps people with multiple problems (not just suicide) is a great resource for them if they are unsure who to go to. There are tools and education available to parents from all backgrounds and if you believe your child to be involved with cyberbullying the best thing you can do is to learn and help protect your child to the best of your ability. Don’t let the bully win, take action and teach your children how to protect themselves from inappropriate behaviour.