Most young people have access to internet at home as well as their phones. Some of the most common activities online include chatting with friends and social media. The impact of Internet penetration has had more influence on teens’ lives than what’s visible – when it comes to bullying some are perpetrators while others are victims.
Here is the problem. Teens that insult one another face to face more often than not forget what was said. Insults can be smoothed over with time. But when a teen abuses another on social media those words hang around. The insults can be read, re-read, mulled over. They will never go away. And there is an instant gallery of bystanders that can be manipulated and influenced against a would-be target.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is the same as any other type of bullying. The only difference is that it takes place through text messages or on online communities and forums. Cyber bullies can be acquaintances, classmates, and even users who are anonymous, but mostly these cyber bullies know their victims.
Some examples of cyber bullying that are commonly witnessed these days include:
- Sending someone threatening or mean text messages or emails or doing rude comments or tweets about them.
- Tricking people into telling embarrassing or personal information, videos or pictures and sharing it with other people.
- Hacking into someone’s instant message or email account and send untrue or cruel messages to others while pretending to be them.
- Creating web pages, Facebook pages to make fun of a classmate or a teacher.
- Using websites and rating their classmates or peers as ugliest, prettiest, etc.
- Commenting mean stuff on profiles, videos, or shaming them for their looks, accent or even ethnicity.
The Effects of Cyber Bullying
Teens who experience cyber bullying may have the same effect as children bullied in person. These effects can be depression, low self esteem, a drop in grades, or change in interest. Cyber bullying, however, can be more extreme to the children who become its victims because of numerous factors:
- It can be a lot harsher. People usually say more hurtful things online than they do to a person’s face, largely because the reaction of the other person cannot be seen.
- It could reach more people. Teens can send messages or emails making fun of somebody to their entire school with just a few clicks, or upload it on a website or social media for the entire world to see.
- People can hide under an anonymous cover. Cyber bullies usually use user names that can’t be detected and fake email addresses so that their identity won’t be revealed. The victim of cyber bullying can feel more insecure if they don’t know who is bullying them.
- Victims may feel that they can’t escape it all. Although it is very easy to get away from a cyber bully by going offline, but at the same time going off the radar will take away the place youngsters use to socialize with their friends.
Cases of Cyber Bullying and their Repercussions
Just in US alone, more than 43% teenagers say that they have been bullied online, according to this study. The numbers are rising everyday with the increased usage of smartphone and Internet and more and more kids getting involved in activities like sexting. Suicide cases amongst teens have been on the rise too, with photos and videos getting leaked and increased bashing on social media with regards to sexual orientation, looks, ethnicity and general views and opinion.
Why Does Cyber Bullying Happen?
Unlike bullying in person, cyber bullying is not always initiated with wrong intentions at heart. A number of teenagers also do it thinking it is:
- Just harmless jokes,
- A way of being funny or popular,
- Entertaining or innocent ways of blowing off steam when they are bored or upset,
- Getting back at someone ‘who deserves it’ or ‘asking for it.’
Most teens don’t have an idea of the repercussions that cyber bullying can have. Parents and peers have the responsibility to put a stop at this in the early stages because there is no excuse for being mean unnecessarily, it definitely isn’t harmless and nobody is deserving of it no matter what they’re doing.
How to Help Your Teen Deal with Cyber Bullying
The victims of cyber bullying can get depressed, angry, humiliated, hurt, devastated, or even suicidal. It is not a small matter that should be ignored by parents at any cost, if you notice any signs that your teen is:
- Depressed or feeling down,
- Shut off in their room,
- Feeling threatened with the idea of meeting new people,
- Edgy and irritated all the time
- Losing interest in activities they loved doing,
Then, take immediate notice. Here are some ways to handle the situation and help your teen cope up with the pressure of cyber bullying.
-10 Solutions for Parents Against Cyber Bullying-
1. Let them Know that It isn’t their Fault
Bullying is a cruel and heartless thing that has nothing to do with the victim and everything to do with the bully. The important thing to keep in mind in this situation is that you should not put the blame on your teen. Never show by your actions or words that you don’t trust them or it is their fault. Tell your teen to stand up to the bully, be confident and confide in you if someone has been increasingly mean or manipulative to them. Bullies act out of their own insecurities, and succumbing to the tactics empowers them.
2. Tell the Person to Stop
Tell your teen to be brave – they can always ask the bully to stop. Tell them that you don’t deserve to be treated this way and will not stand up to this anymore. But at the same time also encourage that this is totally up to them – if they are not comfortable doing it or fear further mean tactics from the bully, they don’t have to.
3. Do Not Retaliate or Lash Out
Reaction from the victim is exactly what the bully is looking for. To them, if they make the victim react, they have power over them. Also, if you give a reaction, a bully is likely to bully more, instead of ignoring the matter and moving on.
4. Don’t Delete the Evidence
Evidence of cyber bullying can be saved, captured, and shown to another person. By having this option, one can seek help from an adult or a trusted friend.
5. Reach Out For Help
Tell your teen that if the cyber bully is really getting to you, they need backup. Always encourage them to confide into a trusted friend or an adult to seek help. There are also school counselors as well as trusted official online resources that locally help teens that have been victims of cyber bullying.
6. Block the Bully
The plus point of dealing with a cyber bully is that you can get out of the situation with just a few clicks. Almost all social media services or apps have the option to block a person. Whether it is on comments, apps, tagged photos, or texting, the best way to deal with it is to block and report the bully. This way you will not be tempted to retaliate or respond to the bully. If the bully is threatening you to physical harm, you should report it to the authorities at school or local police.
7. Re-check before you Post
One thing that you should always encourage your teens to practice is avoiding too much information on social media. Try to not post things on social media or share personal information, pictures or videos that can mess up your reputation. People always evaluate a person on the pictures and posts on social media so be cautious of what you put out there. Most bullies on the internet either do this to get back at someone thinking they deserve it or do it for plain harassment and entertainment.
8. Protect Your Accounts
Encourage privacy and security on social media and tell your teens to never share their passwords with anyone – not even their best friends. Also tell them to put a pass code on their phone so it can’t be used by anyone else to impersonate them or access private information.
9. Set up Privacy Controls
Parents need to give teens a heads-up on what’s out there and just how much information should they reveal to strangers, as well as their friends or romantic interests. As them to keep a close eye on the privacy settings in their social media accounts and not share private information, pictures or personal accounts with anyone.
10. Raise Awareness and Take Action
If someone you know is a victim of cyber bullying, take action and show support. Ignoring the aggressor can empower them. Try to stop the bully by taking a step against them. Support the victim if you are not able to stop the bully. Just talking to the victim can show them that they are not alone and everything will be okay. Consider mutually whether to report the bully to a teacher, or concerned authorities. If you are the parent of a teen who is being bullied, don’t alienate or blame them, instead show your support and love and let them know that you’ve got their back no matter what.
And… Don’t be a Bully Yourself
Always educate your teen to not be bullies themselves – bashing someone or retaliating will not make them feel better. They should know not to ever post a harsh comment on someone else’s picture or post. Always tell them to put themselves in their shoes and think how it would make them feel if someone says something mean or similar to them.