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Cyberbullying: A Guide to Internet and Computer Safety

Anyone who spends time online may eventually come into contact with people who use technology to harass victims. This activity is known as cyberbullying, and it is often against the law. It's estimated that more than 40 percent of all kids have experienced some type of cyberbullying, and around 25 percent of kids have had cyberbullying happen to them more than once. Kids should be aware of cyberbullying so they can recognize it if they see it. Awareness of cyberbullying also helps ensure that kids don't inadvertently engage in this hurtful behavior against other kids.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying involves targeting, threatening, harassing, or embarrassing someone else using technology. Being disrespected or ignored are the two most typical forms of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can happen on computers, tablets, gaming platforms, and smartphones. In many cases, cyberbullying is illegal, and it usually causes emotional and psychological pain in the victims. Girls are almost twice as likely to engage in cyberbullying behavior against others or to be the victims of cyberbullying. Some instances of cyberbullying can be easy to recognize, such as a mean text or comment on social media. Other types of cyberbullying are not as obvious, such as using photos to embarrass someone or posting a personal message for others to see.

Signs of Cyberbullying

Kids who are victims of cyberbullying often keep the situation to themselves. They feel ashamed or afraid that parents will take their devices away, so they don't tell trusted adults such as teachers and parents. Signs of cyberbullying include:

Effects of Cyberbullying

With the overwhelming prevalence of mobile devices among preteens and teenagers, it can be difficult to escape the effects of cyberbullying for many kids. Some teenagers may feel like they can never escape their devices, and they feel these effects strongly. In fact, cyberbullying can have a more significant impact on kids than regular bullying because the Internet is always available, while school is only in session during specific hours. Severe cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide attempts in some cases. Kids who engage in cyberbullying of other kids may face punishments such as suspension or expulsion from school and sports teams. Some cyberbullies even face legal penalties.

Ways Parents Can Help

If a child is being cyberbullied, parents can step in to help. Don't act rashly in a cyberbullying situation, as you might actually make things worse. Get perspectives from different people to assess the situation from every angle. Offer the child comfort and support by sharing your own experiences of being bullied. Make sure the child knows that being bullied is never the victim's fault. When a child steps up to report cyberbullying, offer praise and support. Encourage the victim not to respond to the cyberbullying, as this usually makes the situation worse. Keep detailed records of cyberbullying instances, and take screenshots for use as evidence. Notify school officials about the cyberbullying; many schools have specific rules and consequences for this behavior. Consider finding a therapist to help a child work through residual feelings related to cyberbullying. To prevent future cyberbullying, block the bully from all devices, limit the child's access to technology, monitor use of social media carefully, and strive to be part of the child's online activities.

Additional Resources