Posted by Idaho Youth Ranch on Sep 14, 2018 9:58:05 AM
In this digital age we now find ourselves in, it is easier than ever for kids and teens to bully their peers. In this digital world, bullies can say something harmful without having to see the physical reactions of their victim or visually experience the effects of their words. To understand the injustice more fully, we first have to admit it exists, educate ourselves, and then take actions to prevent and protect the children in our care.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a form of emotional bullying and takes place entirely online and/or through devices such as phones, computers, and gaming consoles. It is typically meant to humiliate, embarrass, or discourage others by sharing personal or private information, or by degrading another person. Some cyberbullying is considered to be unlawful and/or criminal. Sometimes cyberbullying happens privately through text messages, messaging apps, or email, but many times it happens on a more public platform such as social media where there is maximum fallout.
To identify cyberbullying, you must understand the tactics used to harm the victims. Many of these you’ll recognize as the digital equivalent of bullying you’ve seen offline.
- Spreading rumors or making comments aimed to embarrass or cause emotional harm
- Using digital means to notify a person of their intent to harm them
- Communicating someone’s proposed worthlessness digitally and encouraging them to take their own life
- Sharing hurtful or embarrassing content such as images or videos of the victim and mocking them
- Pretending to be someone else to gather information about victims
- Shaming someone online for their religion, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.
- Doxing: Searching for and sharing the private information of victims publicly with malicious intent
Here are some examples of cyberbullying tactics in action:
- A young girl is sent hateful messages over messaging apps and texts because she likes the same popular boy that other girls also like. This is a form of jealousy bullying.
- A transgender child receives digital messages of disgust or death threats from other children just for being who they are.
- A child goes to their first day of school in the best clothes they have, let their picture be taken by fellow students thinking the students love their outfit, and later finds that those students posted the photos online and are teasing them for how poor and lame they are for not having expensive name brand outfits.
These examples happen every day. They could be happening to your child, or your child could be the one bullying others.
According to BullyingStatistics.org, “More research on social media and cyberbullying indicates that while only about 10 percent of teens have reported being bullied on social media, the harm can be far more lasting and severe than the typical school-yard bully name-calling.”
So, what can you do to help your child?
How to Protect Your Child from Being Bullied or Being the Bully Online
As a parent, your child is like your heart running around outside your body. You are probably always thinking about how you can better prepare and protect your child. But maybe you’re wondering if your child is the one hurting the hearts of others.
Whether you are a parent looking to educate and protect your child because they are in harm’s way or they are doing the harming (which can have its own lasting negative impact), there are actions you can take.
Look for Teachable Moments
We’ve all heard the saying by now: “If you see something, say something.” Teaching your child to identify cyberbullying and to report it, will help prevent expression of prejudice and hate, but it also teaches your child to stand up to the bullies in their lives and the lives of those around them. As a parent, you may be fearful of backlash on your child for reporting these things. If that’s the case, encourage your child to report things in a way you feel is appropriate and has minimal-to-no backlash, such as anonymous reporting.
Here are some practical steps children can take to deal with cyberbullying, according to Laura Tierney of The Social Institute:
- Be on the lookout for anything that makes them feel unsafe: Teach kids to trust their gut. If something feels wrong to them, they should listen to that.
- Take a screenshot: "With disappearing Snaps and with disappearing Instagram stories, it's easy to say, 'Well, I might have seen this, but it's disappeared'," Tierney said. By taking a screenshot and saving it, your child has solid proof and a record of what they’ve seen online.
- Tell the right people what they’ve seen: Don’t just tell your child or teenager to “tell somebody” if they see something. Make sure they understand who the right “somebody” is. If they don’t know who to turn to and tell, they will likely only tell their peers, and that does nothing to stop the cyberbullying.
Monitoring Your Child on Social Media
As a parent, you have the right to monitor your child online or to monitor their devices. We highly recommend you do so for their protection (and potentially to protect others). Nick Wingfield of the New York Times has some good things to say on this topic in his article Should You Spy on Your Kids.
A Pew Research Center survey of adults with children 13 to 17 years old, published this year, found:
- 61% of parents checked the websites their teenagers visited
- 60% visited their social media accounts
- 48% looked through their phone calls and messages
- 16% tracked their teenagers’ whereabouts through their cellphones
If you’re one of those parents, now you know you aren’t alone.
What to Do if Your Child is the Bully
One of the greatest disappointments and causes of sadness for parents is the knowledge that their own child is causing harm to others. Is your child the bully? If you know they are, rest assured that we can help you and them if you are in Idaho.
Throughout the year, we offer parenting classes designed to help you and your child through the difficult things that you just can’t handle on your own. See what classes we have coming up.
For resources to get immediate help, visit our Get Help page.
Written by Idaho Youth Ranch
Our Mission: The Idaho Youth Ranch provides troubled children a bridge to a valued, responsible and productive future. We are a catalyst for positive change.