Cyberbullying has become an increasing problem. It has even led to the unfortunate suicide of Rebecca Sedwick, a teen from Florida. What once was accepted as “kids being kids” has now come under the microscope. A recent video on cyberbullying lawsuits shows how far parents are willing to go to protect their children. Correcting the problem might be too late. However, parents can take steps to help children protect themselves when surfing online even without being Internet savvy.
Video on Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying by the Numbers
Before parents can deal with cyberbullying in the right ways, they have to understand the facts surrounding it. A study by the Cyberbullying Research Center from 2010 revealed that over 20 percent of children have been the victim of some sort of cyber bullying in their lifetime. Cyberbullying organization i-SAFE reports that more than half of all children will experience harassment or even threats in the form of cyber bullying during their lifetimes.
Understanding Bullying in the Digital Age
Cyber bullying can happen in many venues, and the prevalence of cell phones, laptops and tablet PCs can mean that everyone is connected more than before, even minors. The mobility of these devices means that a child might be behind closed doors with a cell phone. In fact, 80 percent of teenagers use cell phones more than other forms of communication so texting is a prime method for bullying.
Email, social networking, forums and chat rooms also provide opportunities for cyber bullying, and parents should inform children not to respond to bullying and to block messages from a bully when it is possible. The same technology also allows parents to find an educational video on cyber bullying, however.
Responding to Cyber Bullying
It’s important for parents to respond appropriately to their children when children come to them about bullying. Parents can overreact by contacting other parents or the school. On the other hand, children can feel as though their parents don’t take them seriously when parents underreact. Adults must understand that bullying can hurt children intensely even if the act seems insignificant to the parent.
Parents can contact school counselors to help talk to children who are experiencing bullying. Rather than demanding that the school or another parent take action; parents should suggest to teachers and counselors to keep an eye out for possible bullying. However, parents must also remember that it may be difficult for teachers to see every student at every possible moment.
However, parents have a responsibility to contact the police if bullies make threats to their children. Parents can prepare for this meeting by:
- Printing examples of bullying with threats, or
- Contacting Internet service or phone providers to retrieve copies
While law enforcement agencies need digital copies rather than printed copies, printing interactions helps parents make their case against the bully while waiting for copies from their Internet service provider.
Recognizing Signs of Bullying
In some cases, however, children won’t report bullying to their parents. A child may feel ashamed or as though they caused bullying even if the child is the victim in the situation. Children may also fear repercussions such as losing access to their computer. While this does prevent cyber bullying, it also separates children from their social circles outside of school.
Parents should look for anxiety, depression and social withdrawal as potential signs of bullying, whether it’s online or at school. When a parent suspects a child is a victim of bullying, a dialog can begin about how to deal with bullies without fear of repercussion. Setting the precedent is important early on to help victims of bullies and to prevent the cycle from continuing. Recognizing these symptoms also enables parents to seek the appropriate help for their children.
The Bullying Cycle
The number of children who reported having perpetrated cyber bullying according to the iSafe survey was just under 20 percent. Many times, victims of bullying can engage in bullying themselves. Parents should remember that their children are more likely to become bullies after being the victim, and the roles can even switch between children during the same interaction.
Parents can watch a video on cyber bullying to learn how it works and how to best deal with it, but there’s more to dealing with cyber bullying than teaching children how to respond as a victim. Parents also have a responsibility to talk to their children to stop the perpetuation of bullying. Parents can help prevent their children from becoming bullies by discussing how mean words and pictures and spreading rumors are hurtful and encouraging children to think twice before pressing “Send.”
Ultimately, all adults have to take cyber bullying seriously to help victims of bullying and break the cycle because technology is only going to make it easier in the future.