Bullying isn’t a new thing. Bullies have been around forever, and now with advancements in technology, they have a whole new platform to conduct their bullying behaviour. Decades back kids would get picked on at school and on the playground. Nowadays, bullies have started to use the Internet too, for name-calling, spreading rumours, and other mean behaviour. This can cause just as much, if not more, emotional pain for their victims. What are the Consequences of Cyberbullying? Read on to find out more…

What is cyberbullying?

According to Kids Health from Nemours, cyberbullying is:

“The use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.”

Meaning kids can now be bullied through emails, text messages, voice mail messages, online messaging, on social networking sites and on different websites.

Forms of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can take many forms, these include:

  • Threatening behaviour using any form of technology.
  • Posting false comments or embarrassing photos on social networking sites.
  • Creating a fake profile or website designed to cause harm to the victim.
  • Any other online conduct geared to demean, embarrass or scare the victim.
  • Threatening to post embarrassing photos, videos or comments unless the victim does what is asked.

Cyberbullying can be intentional and unintentional. Intentional bullying means the bully knows what he or she is doing and continues until desired results are achieved. Unintentional bullying is acted where the bully does not intentionally mean to harass the victim. This means, that a simple joke may be funny to one person, but not another. Unintentional bullying generally stops once the bully is confronted, while intentional bullying continues even after someone has explained to the bully how his or her actions affect others.

What are the effects of cyberbullying?

Since bullying is no longer limited to the schoolyard, are at risk of being under assault all the time, no matter where they are or who they are with. Long-term and frequent acts of bullying can have a huge impact on both the bully and the victim. The consequences of cyberbullying include putting both victims and bullies at high risk for depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. Kids Health from Nemours also reported that those involved in these bullying acts are at a greater risk of suffering from suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.

There are a variety of different consequences of cyberbullying for the bully. These can include being suspended from school or being removed from sports teams and school organizations. Depending upon the acts and motives of the bully, there can be legal consequences. According to iKeepSafe.org, both civil lawsuits and criminal charges can be brought against bullies. These charges can include acts of harassment, intentional infliction of emotional pain, negligence and vicarious liability. Depending upon what happens to the victim as a direct result of the bullying, criminal charges can also be brought. Some charges associated with cyberbullying include hate crimes, impersonation, harassment and multiple violations under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Currently, there are no national laws specifically tackling the issue of cyberbullying. However, many states have put anti-bullying laws into effect. These laws vary from state to state, but all agree on what cyberbullying is and the legal ramifications associated with being the bully. Penalties for cyberbullying also vary from state to state.

What are the signs of cyberbullying?

Because there is a stigma placed on the victims of a bully and the fact that the victim fears additional retaliation, acts of cyberbullying often go unreported. Due to this, it is vital that both parents and teachers understand and are able to recognize the signs of cyberbullying. The signs of cyberbullying can include:

  • Being upset after using the Internet or receiving a text message.
  • Becomes secretive about his or her digital life.
  • Becomes withdrawn from family and friends.
  • Stops participating in group activities.
  • Starts avoiding school and group events.
  • Experiences a decline in grade point average.
  • Stops doing homework.
  • Drastic changes in mood, sleep and appetite patterns.
  • Wants to stop using the phone or computer.
  • Becomes nervous when new messages come in.
  • Conducts self-destructive behaviour.

Signs your child might be the bully include:

  • Encourages others to do the bullying.
  • Is very aggressive toward everyone.
  • Is being sent to the principal’s office regularly.
  • Receives detention often.
  • Starts acquiring new belongings or unexplained money.
  • Does not take responsibility for anything, including his or her actions.
  • Is very competitive and worried about his or her popularity.

How can I help a child who is being cyberbullied?

As a parent, we want to protect our children from the outside world. However, with current technology, sometimes the outside world comes to them. If you feel your child is being cyberbullied, the best thing you can do is to sit down and offer your support and guidance toward finding a solution. Assure your child it is not his or her fault.

Once you have identified the bully you can take action with your child to get the bullying to stop. Here are some tips to help deal with the situation:

The school: Make the school aware of the situation by talking to your child’s teacher, principal or guidance counsellor. Together with the school discuss how to prevent future acts and what will be done with the accused bully.

Documentation: Work with your child to document all incidents, including printing emails, taking screenshots of text messages and writing down all incidents in a notebook. This documentation will help when going to the school or authorities on the bullying.

Ignore: Block the bully from social media sites so he or she cannot see or comment on your child’s page. Also, block the bully’s phone number on your child’s phone and his or her email address in your child’s email account.

Access: Until the situation is under control, limit your child’s access to the Internet and phone. This will reduce the exposure the bully has to your child and will prevent your child from feeling depressed over something that occurred online.

Join: Join the social media sites your child is on and become one of his or her friends. If the bully sees you online, chances are he or she may behave knowing there is an adult monitoring the situation.

Help: Talk to organizations about getting help for your child. There are different groups that can help your child get through the situation and offer Emotional Support: These groups can also help find a solution and end cyberbullying altogether.

It is also very important you talk to your child about retaliation and how that is not the answer to being bullied. Discuss alternatives and work together to find a solution.

As you can see, there are many different cyberbullying consequences, for both the bully and the victim. Knowing how to protect our kids from online harassment and being able to recognize when bullying is occurring will help stop the bully before things get out of control. Together as a community, we can reduce the effects cyberbullying has on our children, creating a safe place for kids to learn and interact with each other online.

Please share your thoughts, concerns, ideas and stories in the comments section below. By carrying on the discussion we can all help to bring this issue forward.