Written by P. Humbargar
Edited by A. Noelle
Although bullying has been around forever, “cyberbullying” is a form of bullying that many parents who did not grow up in the digital age are unfamiliar with. Unlike traditional bullying, which generally involved only a small group of individuals, today’s technology—emailing, texting, and instant messaging—allows bullies to take their cruelty to new extremes, involving a complex network of participants.
According to an article published by Common Sense Media, “Bullying Is Everybody’s Business,” bullying in the digital world “is like public humiliation on steroids.” Photos, comments, taunts, and threats literally travel instantaneously throughout the cyberworld by a variety of means and are thus shared with a wide audience. Instances of cyberbullying are becoming increasingly widespread.
- 38% of girls online report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys.
- Nearly 4 in 10 social network users (39%) have been cyberbullied, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks.
These are very disturbing statistics.
Because digital and social media networks are a large part of children’s lives today, it is important for parents and others responsible for those lives to understand exactly what cyberbullying is and how to prevent it.
- Cyberbully: this is the aggressor who uses digital media tools to harass their target.
- Target: this is the victim—the child who is being cyberbullied.
- Bystanders: these are the children who are aware that something cruel is going on but stay on the sidelines “either out of indifference or because they’re afraid of being socially isolated or of becoming a target themselves.”
- Upstanders: these are the children who “actively try to break the cycle, whether by sticking up for the target, addressing the bully directly, or notifying the appropriate authorities about what’s going on.”
According to Common Sense Media, cyberbullying is often a group undertaking with kids participating in four different roles.
Children can play different roles at different times, so how we deal with cases of cyberbullying will depend upon which of these particular roles the child is playing.
The article, “5 Things You Need To Know About Cyberbullying,” offers the following tips for parents on how they can deal with cyberbullying:
- “Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone—or passively witness others being bullied.”
- “Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel—both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.”
- “Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in—their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend. Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.”
- “Help your kid be an upstander-not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.”
- “Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And—if anything does happen—save the evidence.”
This article also points out that broad-brush strokes, like just telling your child to get off Facebook, or taking away the cell phone—won’t work.
Like it or not, online digital communication is very much a huge part of children’s lives today. It is therefore our responsibility to recognize and understand cyberbullying, in order to help our kids as they make their way through the oftentimes perilous cyberworld.
Much more information about cyberbullying can be found at http://www.commonsensemedia.org.
Common Sense Media is a non-partisan organization “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.”
If you would like to read the article, “Bullying Is Everybody’s Business,” click here.
If you would like to read the article, “5 Things You Need To Know About Cyberbullying,” click here.