There are numerous dangers lurking on the internet in this day and age. Anyone can get online and create anonymous social networking profiles and use them to harass or bully someone else. Internet danger may seem harmless, but internet bullying is not a victimless crime.
Cyber Bullying and Internet Danger
So, what is cyberbullying? Most simply put, cyberbullying is when an individual uses the internet to harass another individual. The harasser can be anonymous or known, or can in fact be several people that have teamed up against one targeted person. Since cyberbullies are not harassing their victim in any physical sense, many people don’t take cyberbullying seriously. This article on StopBullying.gov explains some of the effects of bullying on all involved parties, including kids who are bullied and kids who bully others.
Internet bullies can terrorize someone in a variety of ways, including:
- They can message an individual on various social networks to taunt them, threaten them, or ostracize them.
- They can spread personal information about someone on the internet to humiliate them.
- They can make up embarrassing rumours about someone and spread them to people they know, including friends and classmates.
- They can make a fake profile using someone else’s information, and post embarrassing things while pretending to be that person.
Harassers Are Usually Not Strangers
Most teens that are harassed on the internet know their attackers, but feel that they cannot confront them directly. People who are harassed online go through various emotions, most of which they feel they cannot talk to people about. The most common emotional indicators of cyberbullying are:
- Shame—they feel that it is their fault that they are being harassed and that they cannot tell anyone else about it because they should handle the problem themselves.
- Anger—with no clear solution at hand, individuals being bullied online often feel angry that they are so helpless and targeted.
- Fear—being harassed by someone with no face or name can cause intense fear, and that feeling is intensified by the fact that police and adults often don’t take internet bullying seriously.
- Desperation—the feeling of fear and shame that internet bullying can cause can easily lead to acts of desperation, even suicide.
- Depression—feelings of anger and sadness can quickly lead to depression and the fear that the bullying will never end.
For more insights on the mindsets and motivations of cyberbullies, you can read this study on Education.com.
Signs of Internet Bullying
Underage youths are the most vulnerable, and the most frequently targeted. They are often unmonitored and are statistically the age group that uses the internet most frequently. While protecting yourself on the internet may seem like common sense, that isn’t always the case. Below are some warning signs that can indicate that your child has become the victim of internet bullying:
- They absolutely will not let you see what they are doing online, even going so far as to delete their internet search history or become hostile when you ask about their activities. It does not matter how loving or attentive a parent is, internet bullying still creates a feeling of isolation and shame, and many adolescents will try to hide the fact that they are being bullied by those that love them.
- They suddenly become hostile towards those closest to them and withdraw into themselves. They become angry when questioned about why they have suddenly changed, and refuse to talk about their social lives.
- They isolate themselves, and suddenly lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed. They spend most of their time online or texting, and they seem to have new friends that they do not want you to meet. Their physical social interaction becomes limited, and suddenly they do not want to talk to friends that they have known well for years.
- Their school grades suddenly start declining, and they no longer show interest in after-school activities that they once loved. A child that is being cyberbullied will often try to avoid their harassers; this can manifest itself in several ways. They will try to avoid school by pretending to be sick, or they will ask to switch classes, or in extreme cases even schools.
- When not isolating themselves, they might lash out unexpectedly, misdirecting their anger to those closest to them. Because they do not feel that they can confront the individuals bullying them online, they will often bottle their feelings inside and let them out during minor arguments with parents, friends, or teachers.
How to Help a Victim of CyberBullying
So, what can you do if you believe your loved one is the victim of internet bullying? The most obvious answer is to go to the authorities, or to the harasser’s parents, and let them take immediate action to stop the bullies. However, there are other ways to help protect your child once they have become a target of internet danger, including:
- Talk to your child about internet bullying. Sometimes the best approach is the most direct one. Many adolescents do not come to their parents or to teachers about cyberbullying because they don’t think older generations will understand. Letting your child know that you are aware of cyberbullying and that you understand how disheartening it can be, will open a window for conversation.
- Convince your child to step back from social networking and the internet for a while. Try to engage them in activities that will distract them from messaging, texting, and social networking sites. When your child is no longer on the internet, and their harasser no longer has anyone to target, they will usually lose interest and leave your child alone.
- Warn your child about putting too much personal information onto the internet, where anyone can access it. Tell them not to divulge their phone number, address, or daily schedule where potential bullies can see them. Even handing out a seemingly harmless piece of information, such as a personal cell phone number, can open a door for bullies to enter.
- Talk to other adults in your child’s life. Sometimes youths can become adept at hiding their feelings from those closest to them but might reveal more personal information to other parental figures, such as teachers, coaches, step-parents, or aunts and uncles. Keep in contact with the adults and authority figures that your child comes in contact with most often, so that they can warn you if anything is amiss.
- Do not lash back at someone who is the victim of cyberbullying. Although the usual response to anger is also anger, try not to become overwhelmed by your child’s actions, even if they do become irrational and hostile. Remember that your child is simply responding to a threat the only way they know how. Try and talk to your loved ones about what they are going through, and remember that anger on your part could alienate them, and make them feel isolated even more.
Be in the Know
Cyberbullying is a very real and very persistent internet danger. Cyberbullies are continually inventing new ways to harass victims, and they often get away with what they are doing because there is no physical evidence against them.
The single most efficient way of helping your child overcome cyberbullying is by talking to them daily about what they are going through, and by remaining a constant factor in their lives. If your child starts to act up suddenly, or if they constantly lash out with anger, they could be the victim of cyberbullying. Do your research, and always approach them with love, and knowledge.