Cyberbullying among teens and tweens can be very harmful and have devastating consequences. With suicide rates rising among young people making it the third leading cause of death, experts increasingly feel this can be attributed to bullying and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is when one minor (child, preteen or teen) targets another minor by harassing, humiliating, threatening, or tormenting them using digital technology such as the Internet or cell phones. They may post inflammatory comments or embarrassing pictures about their “victim” on social networking sites, start hateful rumors through email chains, or send mean-spirited or threatening text messages.
Here are some scary statistics about cyberbullying:
- More than 50 percent of young people today have been cyberbullied at least once. Less than half of those kids have told their parents.
- At least 25 percent of teens have been repeatedly bullied online or through their cell phone.
- Since more than 80 percent of teens and tweens have or use cell phones, this makes it the most common method for cyberbullying.
- More than 55 percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying through social media. Sadly, 95 percent of them have ignored it.
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of what your child is doing online and know what sites they are visiting. Let your child know up front that you may need to look at their online communications and/or texts if there is a need for concern. You can also ask for their passwords to be used only in the case of an emergency. As an added safeguard you may want to setup privacy controls and/or install parental monitoring software. Additional precautions are:
- Make sure that either you or a family friend “follows” your teen or tween on social networking sites so that you will be aware of any negative or hostile activity.
- Show your child how to be safe when online by establishing rules about the use of laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other digital devices. For example, setup the computer in a commonly used area of the house so that you can easily oversee what’s going on.
- Teach them what types of information and posts are appropriate and what would be considered inappropriate. They need to be aware of what could be potentially embarrassing to themselves or others.
- Caution your child about responding in retaliation to negative feedback – whether its directed to them personally or a friend.
- They should also be warned against sharing their personal information or passwords with anyone else.
- Finally, encourage your child to let you know if they or someone they know is being cyberbullied so that it can be nipped in the bud.
Children who are being cyberbullied often suffer from low self-esteem, while up to nine percent will consider committing suicide. In addition, being a victim of cyberbullying can lead to anxiety and depression. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, please consider speaking with a mental health professional for advice on how to circumvent the process and get your child back on the road to recovery.