Updated: Sep 7, 2020
You’d think that the use of a personal device, such as a cell phone or tablet, would mean that you’re in a safe space. No one is physically around to hurt you or make you feel scared, right?
Unfortunately, this way of thinking couldn’t be more wrong.
Cyber-bullying doesn’t just apply to one or two teens - it can happen to any of them. And, in fact, it does. According to a study of students aged 11 to 15 years old by the Cyber-bullying Research Center, 34% reported that they had experienced cyber-bullying in their lifetimes.
As this study was completed in 2015, we can theorize that 3 years later those numbers have grown.
So, is cyber-bullying the same as bullying? How can we help our teens know what to do when faced with a cyber-bullying attack? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other digital devices.
Some examples of this type of harassment includes:
Hurtful words posted about another teen
An embarrassing photo or video posted with the intention of humiliating the teen
Hurtful texts or instant messages sent to the teen
Spreading nasty rumors online or via mobile device about the teen
The biggest issue with cyber-bullying, compared to other types of bullying, is that it can occur 24/7 and anonymously while hiding behind a screen. No matter where your teen might be, if they are using their mobile device, they could experience cyber-bullying.
Another issue with cyber-bullying is its permanence.
Any humiliating post, picture, or hateful words that are posted about your teen will be there forever. What goes online stays online. This can continue the trauma long after the initial post or reaction.
Because of its persistence and its permanence, cyber-bullying can be extremely hurtful and dangerous for anyone who experiences it. Cyber-bullying may lead to depression, emotional distress, school avoidance, and much more.
What are the warning signs to look for?
If you think your teen might be being cyber-bullied, here are the signs you should watch for:
They abruptly stops using their device
Your teen appears to be uneasy about going to school or leaving the house
They appear jumpy or nervous when using their device
Loses interest in activities they normally loved
They become very withdrawn from family or friends
Seems regularly depressed
Doesn’t want to talk about what’s happening online
Appears angry, depressed, or frustrated after going online
Makes passing statements about suicide or not wanting to live anymore
Shows drastic changes in their eating or sleeping patterns
Wants to spend more time with parents than with their peers
How can we help put a stop to it?
As parents, teachers, and guardians, we can help our teens handle cyber-bullying by encouraging them to block their bullies from their mobile devices, social media, and more.
Unfortunately, confronting or asking the bullies online to stop won’t do a lot to help the situation. It might even fuel more hateful words and actions towards your teen. Teens should never respond to cyber-bullying.
Your teens have the power over their online activities and presence. They can choose to take the power back from their bullies by choosing to block and delete their oppressors from their online lives.
Your teen might be nervous about doing this, but it’s important for them to realize that they can make their own environment and take their control back. Plus, “out of sight, out of mind” is a very effective strategy when it comes to dealing with cyberbullies.