Catching and Curbing Cyberbullying
What is Cyberbullying?Cyberbullying is the use of technology to inflict willful and repeated harm. It can occur through text messages, social media accounts and gaming. According to the the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying occurs more frequently where teens gather. In the 2000s, that space was chat rooms (like the now defunct AOL Instant Messaging service). But as of late, online harassment is most often found in social media channels, like Instagram and Snapchat, gaming platforms and video streaming websites, like Twitch and YouTube.
Statistics to Know About CyberbulliesParents are justifiably concerned about the impact of cyberbullying on their children as victims, but what if it’s your child who’s doing the bullying? The numbers here are equally sobering, with some studies suggesting between 10 and 20 percent of kids will bully a peer online in their lifetime, while another reports 12 percent of kids 10-17 had perpetrated bullying online in the past year and 6 percent of American high schoolers cyberbullied someone in the last 30 days alone.
Common Cyberbullying BehaviorsHere are some examples to look out for when it comes to online bullying:
Posting a mean or hurtful video: Children and teenagers can share private information about others that could be embarrassing or harmful.
Lies and false accusations: Children can spread false information or rumors about someone using digital technologies. This can lead to more harassment from more than the person initiating the bullying.
Bullying for being different: Children posting to social accounts, making fun of others who may be economically challenged (e.g., not wearing name brand clothing) or for being different (e.g., special needs or identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer).
False identities: Teens can create new social media profiles of a person, and use it to learn personal information about classmates, only to share it with others.
Encouraging self-harm or suicide: This form was placed in the spotlight with the Michelle Carter court case. In 2017, Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter when, as a teen, she encouraged her then boyfriend to kill himself. While that case seems extreme, there are other instances when children have sent “better-off-dead” messages as a form of online harassment.
Doxxing: A newer form of cyberbullying, doxxing is the distribution of personal information — names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. — online without permission. While not revolving around children, a real-life example of this was the publishing of Ashley Madison customers’ names, banking information and more. Children can also be the target of doxxing, as in one case, a boy wrote in an online forum that he didn’t like game features and tactics. As a matter of disagreement, another user doxxed him, sending a flood of threatening emails and messages his way.
How to Identify CyberbullyingAs parents, it’s hard to keep tabs on your child’s online activity, and it’s pretty much impossible these days to ban them from using your Kinetic Internet. So, what should you look for to learn whether your children are either victims of online harassment, or are cyberbullying others?
- Noticeable differences in device usage, whether increased or decreased
- Strange behavior or strong emotional responses when using their devices
- Unusual secrecy, especially when it comes to online activity
- Deleted or new social media accounts
- Avoidance of school and social activities, particularly ones that they’ve enjoyed in the past
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Depression generally, which can exhibit itself through changes in appetite, sleep and overall behavior
- Unusual secrecy especially when it comes to online activity, like switching screens or hiding devices when you’re near
- Excessive laughter while using their device, paired with an unwillingness to tell you what they’re laughing at
- Usage of several online accounts, particularly those that aren’t their own
- Increases in behavioral issues or disciplinary actions at school
- Concerns with social status or popularity at school
- Insensitivity or callousness toward others