Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place via electronics. It could be over texting, SMS, social media, email, or any other electronic platform. While it is difficult for parents and teachers to monitor what teens are doing online, following these tips can help stop cyberbullying among teens.
Know What Cyberbullying Is
In order to stop cyberbullying from happening, you first have to understand what exactly it is. As already mentioned, cyberbullying takes place via social media, texting, and other forms of electronic communication. As a general rule, bullying is defined as behavior that is repeated, unwanted or aggressive, and includes a real or perceived power imbalance. The power imbalance can be physical (such as an older teen bullying a pre-teen), mental (neurotypical teens bullying a teen with a developmental disability), or social (a popular teen bullying a less-popular teen).
Cyberbullying can take many forms including:
- Harassment via text or messaging services, where one or more teens send cruel, rude, or annoying messages to another.
- Posting embarrassing photos to social media or texting them to an entire class in an effort to humiliate someone else.
- Impersonating someone by making a fake account designed to embarrass someone or get them into trouble.
There are also other ways that cyberbullying can manifest. In short, if an individual is being harassed or otherwise bothered by people via the use of electronics, it could fall under cyberbullying.
Know What Your Teen Is Doing Online
One step parents can take to stop cyberbullying among teens is to be aware of what their teens are doing online. There are many apps and websites that can be used for bullying. While the use of these apps does not prove that any bullying is taking place, it is important for parents to know whether their own children are using them as intended or for bullying purposes.
For preteens and younger teenagers, keeping computers, tablets, and smartphones in public areas of the home can help you keep an eye on what sites and apps they are using. It is also important to ask questions about what your teen is doing when he or she is not under your watchful eye. With almost all teens having access to the internet, chances are very good that your teen will be able to use one outside of your home when they are not with you.
Be Aware of Certain Apps and Sites That Make Bullying Easier
Any electronic platform could be used for cyberbullying. Parents can help stop cyberbullying by being aware of the various social media platforms that many teens use. Here are a few that your teen might have, as well as information about how the sites and apps can be used to bully, intimidate, or harass.
- Facebook. When an image is posted on Facebook, it will often be seen by many others before it can be reported. This makes it a platform where teens might post embarrassing photos of others, tagging them in the process so it is viewable to the victim’s friends. Teens have also been known to create fake Facebook profiles to impersonate their victims. Additionally, there is Facebook Messenger, which allows people to send potentially harmful private messages.
- Whatsapp and Kik. These are messaging platforms that allow one-on-one messages as well as group messages. Only the people receiving the messages can read them; they aren’t public. These rely on knowing the person’s telephone number, so in this way, cyberbullying victims know who their bullies are.
- Ask.fm. This is a site that allows users to anonymously post questions and comments to a known person. The nature of the site allows cyberbullying to take place without the victim knowing who his or her tormentor(s) are.
- Snapchat. Snapchat is an app that allows users to send messages and photos. The main issue is that the messages disappear within seconds after being opened, so unless the recipient takes a screenshot, the proof of a bullying post vanishes quickly.
Talk to Your Teenager About Cyberbullying and How to Cope
Another way you can help stop cyberbullying is to talk to your teen about it. Make sure they know what it is and that it is often against the law. Many times, teens might think that bullying behavior is all in fun or not a big deal even though it is a very big deal to those on the receiving end of the harassment or humiliation. Make sure your teen is aware of the negative effects of bullying.
If your teen is the one being cyberbullied, encourage them to block the person or people sending the messages. They can report fake profiles that are impersonating them to the platforms themselves. In many cases, not responding to the bullying can help; other times, though, it can be persistent. This is the case especially when the teens who are doing the bullying go to school or other activities with the teen being bullied.
If your teen is showing signs of depression or anxiety, and particularly if he or she is showing signs of suicidal ideation, it is important that you put their safety first and take them to a doctor or therapist.
Involve Authorities as Needed to Stop Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is often a crime, depending on the specific circumstances. Also, school districts have an anti-bullying policy that should address cyberbullying, even if it takes place after school hours or not on school property. It is in the community’s best interest to get a handle on all types of bullying, including bullying that takes place via electronics.
Approach your child’s school’s guidance counselor or principal to find out what the anti-bullying policy is. If feasible, report the cyberbullying to the school. If it is a case where the bullying is against the law, do not hesitate to notify local law enforcement.
Bullying causes a wide range of issues for both the bully and the bullied. Those who bully are at risk of getting into significant legal trouble now or in the future. Those who are bullied are more prone to mental health issues, up to and including suicide. They also might suffer from a drop in grades and other issues. Nip these behaviors in the bud as soon as you notice them to reduce the chances that your teen will suffer the consequences of cyberbullying.