By Ritu Chandra, MD
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children and includes behaviors that focus on making someone else feel inadequate, or focus on belittling someone else and is done with the intention of bringing another person down. There are different kinds of bullying: physical, social, verbal, cyber.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology, including devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Why Cyberbullying is Different
-Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night and even during the summer vacation. It is hard to get away from the behavior.
-Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience.
-It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
-Completely deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, skip school, experience in-person bullying, be unwilling to attend school, receive poor grades, have lower self-esteem, and have more health problems.
Real Examples of Cyberbullying for Kids
- A kid in Pennsylvania committed suicide because he was called a ‘freak’ and was told that no one liked him.
- A kid jumped off a bridge because his homosexual sexual encounter video was posted online.
- An OH girl sexted a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he posted this photo on social media sites and then the entire school started calling her names; she hung herself in her closet. This is called ‘Revenge Porn.’
Why children do not seek help?
-No language or framework, feel alone, fear of retaliation, think others may not believe them, parents or teachers may not know what to do
Prevent Cyberbullying for Kids
Parents and kids can prevent cyberbullying. Together, they can explore safe ways to use technology.
- Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.
- Be Aware of What Your Kids are Doing Online- know the sites your kids visit and their online activities, ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
- Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
- Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
- Have a sense of what they do online and in texts.
- Learn about the sites they like.
- Try out the devices they use.
- Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied.
- Explain that you will NOT take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.
Establish Rules about Technology Use
- Be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online.
- Set a strong password.
- Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of their control whether someone else will forward it.
- Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it.
- Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise their control over their online identities and activities.
Steps to Take Immediately
- ALWAYS TELL. The most important thing is that you tell someone about the bullying. “A problem shared is a problem halved.” If possible, this should be an adult that you trust.
- Don’t respond to and don’t forward cyberbullying messages.
- Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages. Block the person who is cyberbullying.
- Change the phone number or online ID of your child
Report Cyberbullying to Online Service Providers
-Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and internet service providers and it should be reported so they can take action against users abusing the terms of service.
Report Cyberbullying to Law Enforcement
Cyberbullying for kids should be reported to law enforcement officials in cases of threats of violence, child pornography, sending sexually explicit messages or photos, talking and hate crimes.
Report Cyberbullying to Schools
Cyberbullying can create a disruptive/hostile environment at school and is often related to in-person bullying. The school can use the information to help inform prevention and response strategies.
Dr. Ritu Chandra is the founder of Preferred Medical Group. She is a board-certified pediatrician, and school related-problems, such as bullying is a special area of interest.