Bullying is no longer confined to school playgrounds and neighborhood alleys. It has long moved into the online world, thanks to the easy access to technology. Between Twitter, SnapChat, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, or even standard SMS texts, emails and instant messages, cyberbullies have an overwhelming number of technical avenues to exploit.
While cyberbullying can happen to anyone, studies have shown that teens are usually more susceptible to it. The percentage of individuals – middle and high school students from across the U.S. — who have experienced cyberbullying at some point, has more than doubled (19% to 37%) from 2007 to 2019, according to data from the Cyberbullying Research Center.
Before you teach your kids how to respond to cyberbullying, it is important to know what it entails.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, tablets, or computers. Even smaller devices like smartwatches and iPods can facilitate cyberbullying. Today, social media platforms act like a breeding ground for cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying usually begins with teasing that turns to harassment. From there it can evolve in many ways, such as impersonation and catfishing, doxxing, or even blackmail through the use of compromising photos.
Catfishing is the process of creating a fake identity online and using it to lure people into a relationship. Teens often engage in impersonation online to humiliate their targets and it is a form of cyberbullying.
Doxxing is used as a method of attack that includes searching, collecting and publishing personal or identifying information about someone on the internet.
Identifying the Warning Signs
When it comes to cyberbullying, just like traditional bullying, there are warning signs for parents to watch for in their child. Although the warning signs may vary, Nemours Children’s Health System has identified the most common ones as:
- being upset or emotional during or after internet or phone time
- being overly protective of their digital life and mobile devices
- withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
- missing or avoiding school
- a dip in school performance
- changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
- suddenly avoiding the computer or cellphone
- being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
- avoiding conversations about their cell phone activities
Remember, there are free software and apps available to help you restrict content, block domains, or even monitor your child’s online activity.
While having a child who is being cyberbullied is every parent’s nightmare, it’s equally important to understand if your child is cyberbullying others.
Do you believe your child is a cyberbully? That difficult and delicate situation needs its own blog post—but don’t worry, we have you covered.
Preparing your kids for a world where cyberbullying is a reality isn’t easy, but it is necessary. By creating a safe space for your child to talk to you about cyberbullying, you’re setting the foundation to squash this problem quickly if it arises.