Bullying has become a big problem, particularly among children and teens. However, with the emergence of technology, such as smartphones, tablets and the internet, bullying has gone to a new level. Today kids and teens not only face bullying in school, but they face bullying when they are at home via their phone or computer. Cyberbullying is a serious topic, and it’s important that parents learn about this devastating form of bullying so they can prevent it. Here’s a closer look at cyberbullying, the dangers of cyberbullying and helpful tips for preventing it.

What is Cyberbullying?

What exactly is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying refers to any type of bullying, embarrassment or harassment that occurs via interactive technology, such as a cell phone or the internet. This type of bullying may be done both indirectly and directly.

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is affecting many individuals today, specifically teens. In fact, an AP-MTV survey found that out of more than 12,000 individuals aged 14-24, half of those surveyed had dealt with digital abuse in some way, including digital disrespect, violation of trust and spreading lies.

Cyberbullying Examples

Cyberbullying can vary, depending upon the type of interactive technology used. Some examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Password Theft – Stealing someone’s passwords and pretending to be the victim, manipulating the victim’s profile online to include offensive and hateful information to ensure the victim can no longer use the account or to keep other individuals from being friends with that victim.
  • Pictures – This includes sending naked pictures via cellphone or email to other people, uploading the pictures where others can download the pictures or posting those pictures on the web.
  • Harassment Via Text Message or Instant Message – Sending harassing, mean or bullying messages via instant message or text message. Sending death threats, inappropriate photos, etc.
  • Websites and Blogs – Creating blogs or websites designed to harass or insult others. This may include posting personal information or pictures of other individuals on the blog or website to harass the victim.

Negative Emotions Associated with Cyberbullying

One of the dangers of cyberbullying is the negative emotions that victims often deal with after being exposed to cyberbullying. Some of the common negative emotions often experienced by kids and teens who are cyberbullied include:

  • Depression
  • Shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sadness
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Fear

Unfortunately, if the negative emotions aren’t properly dealt with, it often results in more serious negative behaviours from the victims. Victims may begin to withdraw from others and avoid social relationships. A victim of cyberbullying may begin to perform poorly in school. Sometimes victims may start bullying other people so they start to feel in control once again. In rare, extreme cases, failing to deal with the problem has resulted in suicide, and several cases of suicide connected to cyberbullying have been documented.

Why is Cyberbullying Dangerous?

Most people are already aware of the dangers of bullying, but many are not aware that cyberbullying can be even more dangerous. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is extremely dangerous because it not only has the serious effects that come with in-person bullying, but it has other unique issues that make it more dangerous. The following are a few reasons that cyberbullying is so dangerous.

  • Cyberbullying is Permanent – One of the dangers of cyberbullying is its permanence. Once it’s on the internet, it can be almost impossible to eliminate offensive material from the web. After a video, photo or rumour is on the web, it may remain on the web forever.
  • Cyberbullying is Very Public – Another issue is that cyberbullying is very public. The audience size is huge, which only makes a victim’s humiliation worse. Since it is public, it often escalates faster too.
  • Bullies Can Stay Anonymous – Many bullies are emboldened because they can stay anonymous, which often makes the bullying even worse.
  • Cyberbullying is Omnipresent – While victims can get away from face-to-face bullies, cyberbullying is omnipresent. It can follow a victim anywhere, meaning that they never feel like they have a safe place.

Tips for Preventing Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is terrifying for kids and teens, and it’s important for parents to take measures to keep their children from being victims. Prevention is the best defence against cyberbullying. The following are some helpful tips for preventing cyberbullying.

  • Tip #1 – Demonstrate Proper Behavior When Using Technology – First, make sure you are a good example. When you’re using technology, avoid joking about or harassing other individuals. Your children will learn a lot from your behaviour when you use technology.
  • Tip #2 – Talk to Your Children About Bullying and Cyberbullying – Take the time to talk to your kids about bullying and cyberbullying. Let them know that they need to respect other people and explain that bullying can be hurtful. Make sure they know that bullying, whether offline or online, is never okay.
  • Tip #3 – Teach Kids the Consequences of Misusing Technology – Share some of the dangers of cyberbullying with your children and make sure they know the consequences of misusing technology. For example, misusing technology could get them in trouble with the police or could damage their reputation.
  • Tip #4 – Get Involved in Your Child’s Use of Technology – Be involved with your child’s use of technology. Let kids show you how they use their smartphones or the web. Ask if they have experienced any harassment online.
  • Tip #5 – Limit Cellphone Use and Internet Use – Cellphone and internet use should both privileges. Limit it to a certain amount of time each day. Keep kids off phones and the internet at night, which is when most instances of cyberbullying occur.
  • Tip #6 – Keep Computers in Visible Areas – Don’t allow kids or teens to have computers in their bedrooms. Ensure the computer is in a visible area of your home.
  • Tip #7 – Let Kids Know They Should Talk to You If Cyberbullying Occurs – Ensure your kids know that they can talk to you if cyberbullying ever occurs. Ask your kids about cyberbullying from time to time.
  • Tip #8 – Use a Good Blocking and Filtering Software – Using a good blocking and filtering software can help you set online time limits, block hateful, offensive content and allows you to monitor the online behaviour of your kids. It’s one more way that you can work to protect your child from cyberbullying.