Cyberbullying is a modern and dangerous form of bullying that takes place using electronic technology such as cell phones, computers, or tablets. Over half of young people report being cyberbullied.
Examples of cyberbullying
- Sending hurtful or threatening texts or e-mails
- Starting rumors on social media sites
- Spreading embarrassing photos or videos
- Creating a fake profile to torment or humiliate
Why cyberbullying is different
- It’s more permanent—victims can reread the harmful words and it is often difficult to delete messages and pictures once they are distributed
- It can happen any day at any time
- It can be done anonymously and can be spread to many people in an instant
Signs your child might be a victim
- Distress when using electronic devices
- Secrecy regarding online use or refusal to talk about online activity
- Unexplained anger
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Changes in eating or sleeping, drop in grades
- Uneasiness about going to school or spending time with peers
Signs your child might be a cyberbully
- Switches screens or closes the phone or computer whenever you are near
- Laughs at something online but won’t tell you what it is
- Avoids conversations about online activity
- Uses multiple online accounts
- Uses electronic device at all hours of the night and gets very upset if it’s taken away
- Starts spending time with the “wrong crowd”
What can children do if they’re being cyberbullied?
- Never post or share personal information.
- Never share Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
- Talk to your parents about what you do online.
- Block communication with the cyberbully.
- Delete messages without reading them.
- Talk to a friend or trusted adult about the bullying.
- Report the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator.
- Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages—forwarding or “liking” a message is bullying, too!
What can parents do?
- Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house.
- Know your children’s screen names and passwords.
- Regularly go over their “friends” lists with them. Ask who each person is and how your children know them.
- Bring up the topic of cyberbullying and ask your children directly if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
- Assure your children that you will not blame or punish them for being cyberbullied. Most children do not tell their parents when they are cyberbullied because they are afraid they will lose their cell phone or computer privileges.
Sarah Reik is a licensed professional counselor with WLCFS, Christian Family Solutions. She recommends that parents use a digital covenant of conduct with their children to help them establish safe, healthy habits when using technology.