By Youth First Staff – July 17, 2018 –
Bullying is not a new problem. Children, parents, teachers, and other school staff have always dealt with incidents on the playground or name-calling on the bus, but these days bullying no longer ends with the school day.
Technology provides many positive benefits in our personal lives and educational system. Cyberbullying, however, is one negative outgrowth of 24/7 connectivity.
The term cyberbullying is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.”
With social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and the ability to share photos and videos via social media and text, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapid growth of cyberbullying.
According to the DoSomething.org, at least 43% of American teens have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once. Seventy percent of students report seeing frequent bullying online. Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying.
Victims of cyberbullying experience low self-esteem, increased use of drugs or alcohol, poor academic achievement, and anxiety or an unwillingness to attend school (stopcyberbullying.gov).
Because these acts do not typically happen on school grounds, it can be difficult for schools to intervene. Parents must play a key role in educating children about acceptable uses of technology and what to do if they encounter cyberbullying.
Start by being involved in your child’s online life. Know passwords, “friend” or “follow” them on social media sites, and look at websites your child frequents.
Educate children on how to use the internet safely and establish firm consequences if they abuse technological privileges. Encourage children to protect passwords and avoid sharing them with peers (not even their best friends) or in public places. Make sure they don’t post any personal information on the internet such as a phone number, address, or even their favorite place to socialize.
Due to the fear of losing access to technology, only 1 in 10 students report telling their parents when they have been cyberbullied. It is important for children to feel comfortable coming to parents with this type of information.
Start by educating kids on what they should do if they encounter cyberbullying. The website stopcyberbullying.org promotes the “stop, block, and tell” strategy. Parents can easily share the following steps with their children:
1. Stop: Immediately stop interacting with a peer who is cyberbullying. Encourage them to not respond to the peer in any way.
2. Block: Block the cyberbully from continuing to communicate. Make sure children know how to block someone from their social networking sites or other technology.
3. Tell: As soon as they encounter a bully of any kind, children should tell their parents. Parents should remain calm, listen carefully, and involve the child in decisions about what to do next.
The next steps may be as simple as blocking a phone number or as involved as talking with your child’s school about the offense. Refrain from contacting the parents or guardians of the bully. They may become defensive and may not be receptive to your thoughts.
Sometimes just offering your child moral support is enough, but don’t hesitate to inform and involve others in order to put a stop to cyberbullying for good.