Cyberbullying is when a person uses digital technology to deliberately and repeatedly harass, humiliate, embarrass, torment, threaten, pick on or intimidate another person.
Cyberbullying happens in lots of different ways – in text messages, emails and online games (Xbox, PlayStation) and on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok.
Examples of cyberbullying include deliberately and repeatedly:
- posting or sending messages that threaten people or put people down;
- leaving people out of online games or social forums;
- spreading nasty rumors online about people;
- setting up unkind or unpleasant fake social media accounts using real photos and contact details;
- trolling or stalking people online;
- sharing or forwarding people’s personal information;
- posting insulting or embarrassing photos or videos of people;
- harassing other people in virtual environments or online games.
Cyberbullying can happen at any time of the day or night, anywhere there’s internet or mobile access. If your child has a disability, or is experiencing a mental health issue like depression or anxiety, this can make him more vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is harmful. It’s never cool, funny or OK. And, while only about 20 percent of teenagers have engaged in bullying or been bullied (this means that most teenagers are using the internet happily and responsibly), for those few victims, cyberbullying can have long-lasting and harmful impacts.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying often leaves teenagers with decreased self-esteem, less interest in school and low academic achievement. Children and teenagers might feel confused by changes in their friendship groups. They might also feel alone, lonely and isolated.
- Cyberbullying can lead to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, stress and, in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. Some victims of cyberbullying feel they have no safe place, or that no one can help.
- Cyberbullying can become offline bullying – for example, bullying at school. And face-to-face bullying can become cyberbullying. Children and teenagers can experience cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying at the same time.
- Talking is one of the best ways to help your child avoid cyberbullying. It’s best to start talking about cyberbullying when your child first starts to use social media, or when he gets a mobile phone.
Here are some things you could talk about:
- What cyberbullying looks like – for example, Cyberbullying is sending mean text messages, spreading rumors on social media, ganging up on or deliberately excluding someone in an online game, or sharing an embarrassing photo with other people.
- How it might feel to be cyberbullied – for example, being cyberbullied can make you feel very upset and lonely. It can make you not want to join in activities where the person doing the bullying might be.
- The consequences of cyberbullying – for example, people who get cyberbullied can stop doing well at school and feel depressed, anxious or even suicidal.
Agree on clear rules about when your child can use her mobile phone, computer or tablet can help her avoid cyberbullying. For example, cyberbullying often happens at night through text messages and shared images. It can help to have a family rule that everyone switches off devices at night and leaves them in a family area.
Here are simple things you can help your child can do to stay safe online and avoid cyberbullying:
- Accept only invites from people she knows. If your child adds someone she doesn’t really know as a friend or follower, it gives that person access to information about your child that could be used for bullying.
- Don’t give out passwords. Some teenagers give their passwords to friends as a sign of trust, but a password gives other people the power to pose as your child online.
- Think before you post. If your child posts personal comments, photos or videos she might get unwanted attention or negative comments. People can screenshot or download the comments and photos and share and post them anywhere. They can also be available online for a long time.
- Tell you, a teacher or another trusted adult if he’s worried about anything that’s happening online, including if he sees someone else being cyberbullied.
Signs That Your Child Might Be Experiencing Bullying
Not all kids will admit to their parents that they are being bullied. It is often embarrassing to them and they are unsure how you will react. Therefore, it is important that you look out for the following signs that your child is being bullied:
- Not going to the bathroom at school. A lot of bullies attack in the bathroom, away from cameras and adults.
- Avoiding unsupervised activities and areas.
- Getting upset after a phone call, text or email.
- Losing friends they previously had.
- Being more isolated and skipping activities that they used to enjoy.
- Spending more time alone in their rooms.
- Making negative statements about themselves and engaging in negative self-talk.
Orthodontic Associates is proud to be a supporter of Stomp out Bullying: https://www.stompoutbullying.org/national-bullying-prevention-awareness-month