Cyberbullying, instead of happening face-to-face, happens through the use of technology such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Cyberbullying peaks around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school.
Examples of cyberbullying include:
- Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
- Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
- Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others
Bullying online is very different from face-to-face bullying because messages and images can be:
- Sent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
- Shared be shared to a very wide audience
- Sent anonymously
Research on cyberbullying has found that students involved are more likely to:
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
Cyberbullying can have particular affects on those who are targeted. Research has found that young people who have been cyberbullied are significantly more likely to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Skip school
- Experience in-person bullying or victimization
Be Smart Online and Texting
You can prevent cyberbullying by being careful of what you do:
Always think about what you post or say. Do not share secrets, photos or anything that might be embarrassing to you or others. What seems funny or innocent at the time could be used against you. You do not have complete control over what others forward or post.
Set privacy settings on your accounts. Make sure that you are only sharing information with people you know and trust. Pay attention to notices from social networks, because sometimes privacy settings change.
If you or someone you know is being cyberbullied, know that it does not have to be this way. There things you can do to help you and your friends:
Talk with someone you trust. Talking to someone could help you figure out the best ways to deal with the problem. Reach out to a family member, friend or another adult that you trust.
Do not respond to cyberbullying. Sometimes people post or text teasing or name-calling to get a reaction. If someone has posted or sent a message that could be hurtful to others, refuse to pass it along or respond to it.
Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, e-mails, and text messages.
Block the person who is cyberbullying you. Many websites and phone companies let you block people. Also, cyberbullying may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of these services. Consider contacting the service provider to file a complaint.
Report the incident to your school. They may be able to help you resolve the cyberbullying or be watchful for face-to-face bullying.
Ask for help. Sometimes, talking to a counselor or health professional can help you get through the emotional effects of bullying.
Although it is difficult for you to monitor your children at all times, it is extremely important to pay close attention to possible cyberbullying incidents involving their children, especially if their kids are younger. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over what information websites can collect from kids.
Help Kids be Smart Online or While Texting
Here are some things that you can do to help prevent cyberbullying.
Communicate with your children. Set up a daily time to check in with your son or daughter, and listen to any concerns about online activities that they are involved in. Talk specifically about cyberbullying and encourage your children to tell you immediately if they see or experience cyberbullying.
Be aware of where your children go online. Familiarize yourself with the technology they are using.
Develop and enforce rules. Work together and come to a clear understanding about when, where, and for what purpose phones and computers can be used. Develop clear rules about what is and what is not appropriate online. Decide on fair consequences and follow through consistently.
If you know or suspect your children are being cyberbullied, take quick action.
Talk with your children. Do not just ignore the bullying problem or hope it will go away. Tell your child that you are concerned and that you'd like to help.
Tell your child not to respond to cyberbullying. Responding can sometimes make the situation worse.
Empathize with your child. Tell him or her that cyberbullying is wrong, that it is not their fault, and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it. Do not assume that your child did something to provoke the bullying. For instance, do not ask things like, “What did you do to aggravate the other child?”
Work together to find solutions. Ask your children what he or she thinks can be done to help, and reassure him or her that the situation can be handled and still keep them safe.
Document ongoing cyberbullying. Work with your children to record bullying incidents. Write down what happened, where, who was involved, and when it occurred. Find out how your child reacted and how the students bullying, bystanders, and adults responded.
Block the person who is cyberbullying your children. Many websites and phone companies let you block people. Cyberbullying may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of these services. Consider contacting them to file a complaint.
Contact law enforcement. Police can respond if the aggressive behavior is criminal. The following may constitute a crime:
Threats of violence
Child pornography and sexting
Taking a photo image of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
Be Persistent. Talk regularly with your child to see whether the cyberbullying has stopped. If the bullying persists or escalates, you may need to contact the appropriate people again or talk with an attorney. Don’t give up.
There are many warning signs that could indicate that someone is involved in bullying, either by bullying others or by being bullied. However, these warning signs may indicate other issues or problems, as well. If you are a parent or educator, learn more about talking to someone about bullying.
Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
Has unexplained injuries
Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
Has changes in eating habits
Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch
Runs away from home
Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school
Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
Talks about suicide
Often feels like they are not good enough
Blames themselves for their problems
Suddenly has fewer friends
Avoids certain places
Acts differently than usual
Becomes violent with others
Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
Is quick to blame others
Will not accept responsibility for their actions
Has friends who bully others
Needs to win or be best at everything