What You Don’t Know About Cyberbullying Could Hurt Your Kids

 Photo Credit: © Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-female-cyberbullying-victim-photo-young-computer-image64129762#res7186631">Female Cyberbullying Victim Photo</a>

Photo Credit: © Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-female-cyberbullying-victim-photo-young-computer-image64129762#res7186631">Female Cyberbullying Victim Photo</a>

Cyberbullying is harassment or bullying online or via social media. While bullying is not new, cyberspace brings new avenues for bullying, often without the kind of accountability that is possible when bullying happens face-to-face. Facing cyberbullying can happen at any age, but it is most common in pre-teens and teens who venture into the secret world of technology alone for the first time.

Here’s what you may not know:

Cyberbullying is more than just trolling.
    When you think of cyberbullying, you might imagine internet trolls making gaslighting statements online. You know the kind? A woman posts a brave photo of her c-section scar, and someone comments “She should cover herself. This chick is ugly.” True, that is a bullying remark, but cyberbullying can be so much more. Former friends may post humiliating images, nudes, or photoshopped images. Victims may receive personalized comments on sites like Instagram, addressed to them by ‘friends’ they know (or don’t) with commands like “Go kill yourself.” 

It happens at your dinner table
    Old school bullying could be left behind in the schoolyard or the hallways. Kids could return home at the end of the day and take a break within the safety of the family home. Cyberbullying follows kids home. They are seated right in front of you at the dinner table when they glance down at an unflattering close-up of their face attached to the comment that says, “Nobody likes you. You should give up on finding a date to the dance.”

The bully enjoys a large audience, immediate gratification, and simultaneous anonymity
    In cyberspace, dozens, hundreds, or sometimes thousands of friends and strangers react to posts and comments within minutes. If I post something cruel and shocking, it may get more attention than a supportive post or a funny cat video. And I can make that remark under my cyber name, or even create a dummy account with a fake name. Some online forums allow fully anonymous comments. Cyberspace is a bully’s paradise.

Teen culture will always stay one step ahead of parents
Teens seek out privacy and culture that parents aren’t allowed to participate in. That’s what teens have done for time eternal. But today’s teens are involved in a world that parents genuinely fail to comprehend. Parents just cannot keep track of every new site or app, and its unique capacity for risk. When parents attend a seminar and get up to speed, something new quickly crops up to keep the online world one step ahead of the previous generation.

Cyberbullying can do a lot of harm
    You may think, “Words can never hurt you,” but cyberbullying can be dangerous. Teens see “Go kill yourself,” and the hurt and humiliation can make them feel like maybe they would be better off if they did. A former confidant revealing secrets can result in isolation. Nude pics sent by an ex or a former BFF can result in public humiliation and long-lasting shame. Victims of bullying are at serious risk for depression, anxiety, and alcohol or drug use, and even suicide. 

Teens often don’t tell parents
    In the world of teens, parents are often uninvited. Even when your teen is hurting, she may not come to you. That likelihood increases if your teen has made a definite mistake (like sending a nude pic) as a precursor to becoming a cyber victim. 

Your child could be the bully
    Cyberbullies aren’t just terrible people. Sometimes they are heartsick ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, rejected friends, angry victims of exclusion, or just misguided individuals responding impulsively to intense emotions. You may find yourself dealing with the shame of your teen’s mistake.

What can parents do?

  • Teach your kids about cyberbullying before they develop online profiles and start using smart phones to connect with friends.
  • Stay involved and supervise. Sit with your kids and ask them to show you what they are using. 
  • Watch for warning signs. A sudden shift in your child’s behavior or mood is an indication that he’s in over his head. 
  • Unplug your family regularly. Technology is distracting and stimulating. Mandate breaks to keep your kids connected to you (and the real world).
  • Take Cyberbullying seriously. Do something if your child has been a victim or a bully.
  • If your child, teen, or college aged kid has a cyberbullying incident, take them to a licensed counseling professional right away.

 

Posted on April 18, 2016 .