Talk to Your Kids About: Cyberbullying

Mother Comforting Daughter Victimized By Text BullyingFrom Instagram, to Snapchat, to YouTube, social media usage among kids (especially teens) has made it easier to communicate and share information. But besides it often being a distraction from studying or connecting in-person, it’s also made it easier to be a cyberbully — or become the victim of one.

Cyberbullying consists of aggressive, harmful actions or words that take place on cell phones and computers, by a person or group of people who support each other in hurting someone else. Often the person that a cyberbully targets is someone thought to be “different” from them. Sometimes a cyberbully wishes to “get back” at someone for something that they think another person did (or didn’t do). However, mean behavior can have nothing to do with the subject of a cyberbully’s actions at all. Actions can include threatening taunts or cruel teasing with words or embarrassing photos. Cyberbullies might spread made-up rumors, or might encourage others to leave that person out of their group activities. Chat rooms, email, texting, online posting, and instant messaging (IMs), even multi-player online games, are all vehicles for cyberbullying. In addition to attacking their subjects psychologically, cyberbullies can also destroy private information, and people’s reputations.

Unlike in-person, physical bullying that tends to take place during the day, cyberbullying happens electronically at any time of the day or night. In fact, victims of a cyberbully might never know exactly who is bullying them. Even more hateful, these damaging electronic attacks can “go viral,” and get passed along from person to person for a very long time.

While cyberbullying delivers a hurtful blow to kids at the time of the incident, it also can have devastating long-term effects on a child’s mental and physical well-being. Anxiety and depression, feelings of loneliness, changes in eating and sleep patterns, drug use, poor test scores, and low school participation are common issues.

Here’s a Parents’ Checklist, if you think your child is being cyberbullied or bullied:                      

  1. Has my child’s behavior changed in the last few days/weeks/months?
    Yes ____             No ____
  2. Is my child feeling less confident or helpless; tearful or withdrawn?
    Yes ____             No ____
  3. Does my child have lots of headaches or stomach aches?
    Yes ____             No ____
  4. Have my child’s grades fallen?
    Yes ____             No ____
  5. Does my child want to skip school or school activities?
    Yes ____             No ____
  6. Does my child avoid meals or binge eat?
    Yes ____             No ____
  7. Does my child want to avoid people that were once friends?
    Yes ____             No ____
  8. Does my child associate with kids that I don’t know?
    Yes ____             No ____
  9. I’ve marked my calendar to talk to my child about cyberbullying (and bullying).
    Yes ____             No ____
  10. I’ll monitor online activity and document it. I’ll discuss reporting cyberbullying/bullying to my child’s school and/or the police. I’ll seek more help when I need it.
    Yes ____             No ____

A recent 2019 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center cited that 36.5 percent of 12 to 17 year-olds in the U.S. said that they had been cyberbullied during their lifetime. Anti-bullying laws and regulations vary by state, but parents, with their kids, communities, schools, law enforcement, and social media companies in support can help stop cyberbullying.

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

Sources include: www.aap.org, www.cyberbullying.org, www.stopbullying.gov

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