Cyberbullying is a serious and growing trend that extends beyond hurtful words on a screen. According to research, “11% of high school students have been victims of cyberbullying with 4% reported acting as cyberbullies, and 7% had been both a cyberbullied and a victim of cyberbullying.” The consequences reveal themselves in the victims’ behavior, emotional state, and overall mental health.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying refers to using electronic communication to bully, often sending abusive messages or images about someone. Cyberbullying transpires via digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets.
Many people think cyberbullying is simply making fun of someone online and that it's not as severe as face-to-face bullying. This is not true. Some experts say cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying because it never ends. Some examples of cyberbullying:
- Harassment: Sending offensive, vulgar, or threatening messages or images. This includes making lewd comments that target someone.
- Recording: Some forms of cyberbullying utilize mobile phones to video record fights, bullying behavior, and other criminal activities. These videos are widely shared online.
- Flaming: Flaming involves fighting others online using electronic messages with angry or vulgar words.
- Denigration: Denigration involves persecuting others online via gossip, rumors, or false statements.
- Impersonation: Impersonation involves adopting another's identity to post material that ruins the person's persona, gets them in trouble, danger, or damages their reputation.
- Doxxing and trickery: Doxxing refers to revealing private information about a person without their permission.
- Exclusion: Exclusion involves intentionally excluding someone from an online group.
The Difference Between Cyberbullying and Bullying
Since cyberbullying happens online, victims cannot escape their bullies. Here are some ways that cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying:
- Anonymity: Bullies may use different devices or usernames to access social media platforms so others cannot trace them. As a result of this anonymity, bullies often feel emboldened to say things to their victims that they wouldn't know in person because they don't have to face the consequences of their actions.
- Reach: The Internet makes it possible to reach a much bigger audience more quickly than face-to-face bullying. Thus, bullies can post a rumor on social media and watch it viral.
- Permanence: The Internet is permanent. Even if you delete a post or an account, traces of the information may remain somewhere, especially in others' hands. Some teens may feel their mistakes will follow them for life.
- No escape: Victims can't get away from the harassment. It goes with them wherever they go because the victim's cell phone is always with them.
The Warning Signs of CyberBullying
Many parents aren't aware of the severe and sometimes lasting effects. There are a variety of signs and symptoms that could indicate your child is being cyberbullied:
- Watch for a sudden change in mood or behavior when they're on the computer or cell phone
- Check for physical changes like weight loss, low energy levels, headaches, stomach issues, and other physical reactions to anxiety and stress
- Look for changes to their sleep patterns like difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual
- Withdrawing from activities that once made them happy
- Expect poor academic performance. Depressed individuals tend to miss more school and perform poorly on tests
- They may choose to stop using their electronics to avoid harassment
How to Help Cyberbullied Teens
Depending on how your teen is being bullied, you may need to help them with the following steps:
- Block the bully. If someone is harassing your child through social media, texts, or other digital means, help them block the bully.
- Report the bullying. Depending on how it’s happening and who’s involved, you may need to report cyberbullying to an online service provider or school officials. If your child's school isn't helpful, contact your local police department or district attorney's office immediately.
- Save the evidence. You must work with your teen to save proof of cyberbullying. This may be necessary if you decide to take legal action against a school or an individual.
- Educate yourself about social media. Most teens spend plenty of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media sites.
- Monitor your child’s computer usage. The best way to protect your teen from cyberbullying is through adequate supervision, which includes setting ground rules for internet use and monitoring their computers and cell phones for evidence of potential problems.
- Don't engage with the bully or bullies. Do not reply to any messages or posts from the bully or his friends. If you respond, you become part of the problem.
- Talk to your teen about online bullying. Explain that once something has been posted online, it is there forever, even if taken down from the site.
- Consider professional help. If they need further assistance to process the trauma of bullying, seek counseling or a treatment program for the teen's mental health.
Cyberbullying can have detrimental consequences on the lives of teenagers. Teens often lack the coping mechanisms necessary to handle such trauma. They may suffer from clinical depression, PTSD, and SUD. If your teen has experienced cyberbullying, we recommend seeking help right away to prevent the lasting effects of trauma. By helping your child find a healthy way to cope with their situation, you can drastically improve their chances for long-term recovery. At Clearfork Academy, we know how to help teens. Our mission is to advance adolescent emotional, mental, and behavioral health for all teens suffering from SUD and any underlying issues like trauma and bullying. We provide non-judgmental services tailored to each teen's needs. More importantly, we believe that these capabilities are essential to helping adolescents lead meaningful and productive lives. For more information about our treatment program, call us today at (817) 259-2597.