As the saying goes, once words are said (or posted on the internet) they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, when people across the nation work together to protect teens and children from bullying. The month is all about spreading awareness about preventing bullying and offering support to those that have experienced bullying.
The explosion of technology in our daily lives has led to a new aspect of bullying: cyberbullying. Also known as online bullying, cyberbullying is the use of electronic/online communication to bully.
Cyberbullying can be particularly harmful because posts, photos, messages, etc. can be viewed by a large number of people in a short amount of time. It can sometimes go unnoticed because teachers or parents may not be able to overhear or see cyberbullying take place.
With October already in full swing, let’s take a moment to think about cyberbullying and what we can do to prevent and address it.
What is cyberbullying, exactly?
Cyberbullying can happen through messaging apps like WhatsApp or Viber, text message, social media, online games, and anywhere people can see, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes posting, sharing, or sending “negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else,” either privately or in a public space, according to stopbullying.gov. It can also involve sharing personal or private information or rumors about someone that causes embarrassment or humiliation.
Bullying can cause or encourage low self-esteem, depression, shame, and even suicidal thoughts in extreme cases.
How can you prevent cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying doesn’t happen to everyone that goes on the internet, but considering he harmful effects of cyberbullying, it’s important to talk to children about cyberbullying and keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying.
Talk to your child about what cyberbullying is, the harmful effects, and encourage them to not take part in cyberbullying themselves. Let them know that even if a photo or a message is sent privately, they should not assume it will not be captured with a screenshot and shared. Talk about what is appropriate to post.
There are so many places where online bullying can happen. Learn about what apps are popular among kids and the ways that people can communicate with them through the app to narrow down what could be problem areas. To avoid possible bullying, check what kind of language is used on these apps, and who frequently uses the app. You should also check the app’s privacy settings and if it has a policy for reporting abuse.
From there, establish rules for online behavior. This can include determining which apps are appropriate for your child and even how long a child can be online. Change privacy settings on children’s accounts, so that strangers can’t see their posts.
Keep an eye on your child for the warning signs of cyberbullying. Your child might use his/her device more ore less than they used to, hide the screen of their device when others go near, and may avoid talking about what they do online. Your child may shut down his/her social media accounts and create a new one. A sign of bullying , in general, is becoming withdrawn, depressed, or losing interest in people and activities.
What to do if cyberbullying happens.
If cyberbullying does occur, there are a few things you can do.
Do not retaliate or respond negatively. Angry and aggressive reactions could make a bad situation worse. If you feel safe doing so, you can send a private message to the offender and tell them you don’t appreciate their post and to stop. If they respond negatively or if the posts continue, you can then determine if the situation should be escalating to reporting them.
Document what is happening by taking screenshots. This can help if you plan to report.
Report the bullying. If a classmate is the offender, report them to the school. Speak with a teacher, counselor, or administrator. You can also contact the app or social media platform directly to report offensive behavior and have any related posts removed.
Get help. Cyberbullying and bullying can have harmful effects long after the incident. Seek help from a teacher or counselor for emotional support if needed.
Cyberbullying and bullying is a concern all year. It’s important to stay informed about trends in technology and how they might impact our lives.
For more information about bullying and what to do about it, visit Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
Want to do more? Join in on Unity Day on October 24 by wearing orange to show support for those who have experienced bullying to show you care.