OCTOBER is National Cyberbullying Awareness Month.
Parents and kids can stop and prevent cyberbullying together. Check out what you – and your kids – need to know.
The WISH to Stop Cyber bullying begins with you!
What is Cyberbullying?
According to https://www.stopbullying.gov/, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. It can include sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
- SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
- Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)
Why Cyberbullying is Different?
Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
- Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
- Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
- Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:
- Posting comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing.
- Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves.
- Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video.
- Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else.
- Posting mean or hateful names, comments, or content about any race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics online.
- Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone.
- Doxing, an abbreviated form of the word documents, is a form of online harassment used to exact revenge and to threaten and destroy the privacy of individuals by making their personal information public, including addresses, social security, credit card and phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other private data.
How Can You Prevent Cyberbullying?
Be Aware of What Your Kids are Doing Online. A child may be involved in cyberbullying in several ways. A child can be bullied, bully others, or witness bullying. Parents, teachers, and other adults may not be aware of all the digital media and apps that a child is using. The more digital platforms that a child uses, the more opportunities there are for being exposed to potential cyberbullying.
Warning Signs a Child is Being Cyberbullied or is Cyberbullying Others:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
What to Do When Cyberbullying Happens – If you notice warning signs that a child may be involved in cyberbullying, take steps to investigate that child’s digital behavior. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, and adults should take the same approach to address it: support the child being bullied, address the bullying behavior of a participant, and show children that cyberbullying is taken seriously. Because cyberbullying happens online, responding to it requires different approaches. If you think that a child is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do:
- Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
- Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
- Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
- Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content posts about a child. Public Intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
Digital Awareness for Parents
The digital world is constantly evolving with new social media platforms, apps, and devices, and children and teens are often the first to use them. Some negative things that may occur include cyberbullying, sexting, posting hateful messages or content, and participating in negative group conversations. If your child posts harmful or negative content online, it may not only harm other children; it can affect their online reputation, which can have negative implications for their employment or college admission.
Some things you can do to prevent cyberbullying and protect your child from harmful digital behavior:
- Monitor a teen’s social media sites, apps, and browsing history, if you have concerns that cyberbullying may be occurring.
- Review or re-set your child’s phone location and privacy settings.
- Follow or friend your teen on social media sites or have another trusted adult do so.
- Stay up-to-date on the latest apps, social media platforms, and digital slang used by children and teens.
- Know your child’s user names and passwords for email and social media.
- Establish rules about appropriate digital behavior, content, and apps.
When cyberbullying happens, it is important to document and report the behavior so it can be addressed.
Steps to Take Immediately
- Don’t respond to and don’t forward cyberbullying messages.
- Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages. Use this evidence to report cyberbullying to web and cell phone service providers.
- Block the person who is cyberbullying.
Report Cyberbullying to Online Service Providers – Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and internet service providers.
- Review their terms and conditions or rights and responsibilities sections. These describe content that is or is not appropriate.
- Visit social media safety centers to learn how to block users and change settings to control who can contact you.
Report cyberbullying to the social media site so they can take action against users abusing the terms of service.
Report Cyberbullying to Law Enforcement when it is necessary:
- Threats of violence
- Child pornography or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
- Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
- Stalking and hate crimes
- Some states consider other forms of cyberbullying criminal. Consult your state’s laws and law enforcement for additional guidance.
Report Cyberbullying to Schools. Cyberbullying can create a disruptive environment at school and is often related to in-person bullying. The school can use the information to help inform prevention and response strategies. In many states, schools are required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy. Some state laws also cover off-campus behavior that creates a hostile school environment.