Cyberbullying: The Scourge of the Internet

Facebook and other Social Media sites have become the new schoolyard for bullies — moving from the playground to the web — where they have 24 hour access to their victims.

Those Rumors You Spread About Me Made My Dog CryThe explosive growth of social media has enabled a lot of new opportunities for kids and teenagers that did not exist for many of us while growing up. But the proliferation of social networking has also come with a disgusting downside —Cyberbullying.

Conversations once held in the schoolyard have evolved to take place on Facebook, allowing for bullying and nastiness to become easier in the 24/7 world of social media, causing victims often feel that they have nowhere to hide –not even from the safety of their own home! Nearly 69% of kids ages 13 to 22 have experienced some for of cyberbullying, 20% of which saying what they experienced was “very extreme”.1 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most cyberbullying cases don’t make it to a criminal level –some bullying victims are tired of hiding in the depths of darkness and despair, which can lead to a tragic results such as suicide –or Bullycide. The mere fact that this is such a phenomenon that a portmanteau word has been created to define this tragedy is absolutely appalling.

Even more shocking, it was found that 75% of parents said that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their kids’ online activities, 62% think their kids can’t get in trouble online and only 17% were said to believe that the online world posed similar dangers as the offline world.1 How in the world are parents supposed to protect their children from cyberbullies while remaining in the dark about who their kids are interacting with online, and how they are interacting with those people?!?

While sometimes it’s difficult to reach out and get our children to share about their lives, both on and offline, it’s imperative to educate our younger generation about online safety. There are a number of steps that parents can take to start the conversation, initiate precautionary measures, and respond in times of crises. First and most important though is to have that conversation and open the lines of communication for children to speak up offline about what they may be seeing online.

  • Talk about the news. Sometimes, it helps to have a real life incident to help you start the conversation and see how your child is feeling about the subject, what they think about it, and perhaps Internet safety in general. By both exposing them to the fact that many people deal with this issue, and opening that dialogue, it can help create a doorway to talk should something happen to your child or a friend.
  • Limit time spent with online devices. Whether your child is using the home desktop, a laptop, tablet or smartphone to access the Internet and/or social networking sites, give hard-stop time limits to their usage. Setting boundaries for social media interactions, and time limits for web activities is a good rule of thumb in general for kids. Some wireless providers will also allow you to block text messaging during certain hours.
  • Use filters and parental controls. Without the proper protection and filtering in place, you could be letting the world into your home through your computer monitor. Set up comprehensive protection for all of your family’s devices —computers and mobile—including safe web searching, risky site alerts, identity protection, time limitations and other parental controls.
  • Educate children on appropriate behaviors. Kids need to know that just because you can share something, it doesn’t mean that you should. A moment of poor judgment when it comes to online sharing can haunt you for the rest of your life. Help kids understand what type of content is and is not appropriate to share online and how to setup privacy controls for the information they post to social media sites.
  • Report inappropriate interactions. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the majority of social media sites have systems for blocking and reporting users who are being abusive or inappropriate. These can help keep your child safe, as well as make sure the user behind abusive accounts is held responsible. Visit the help section of each social media site for instructions on how to block or report a user.
  • If targeted, make sure your kids don’t retaliate. Cyberbullying incidents can often get worse if the exchange becomes more involved back and forth. While you don’t need to respond online, there are other ways to fight back. Assist your child in saving and documenting incidents to report to the police or school officials, if applicable. Keeping record is the best thing you can do when making a case against a bully.

Cyberbullying Infographic
Infographic courtesy of McAfee© Blog Central

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Related articles:

1. Lynn News Cyberbulling Survey
2. Cyberbullying: Words do Hurt When it Comes to Social Media
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ ThatsNotCool.Com