Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyberstalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.
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.
Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a text, tweet, or response to a status update on Facebook that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some kids report that a fake account, webpage, or online persona has been created with the sole intention to harass and bully.
Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender’s tone — one person’s joke could be another’s hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, texts, and online posts is rarely accidental.
Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
- Cell phones and computers themselves are not to blame for cyberbullying. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment. But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar.
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
* Have more health problems
If you are a parent, talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.
- 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. If you are a student experiencing cyberbullying, please discuss the above information with your parent, counselor, or other trusted adult. Parents should also establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Students need to try and develop the self control to make their own rules online.
- Students: Be smart about what you post or say. Do not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass yourselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of your control whether someone else will forward it. Also think about who you want to see the information and pictures you post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it.Keep your passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise your control over your online identities and activities.