Just as the use of technology itself has evolved, so has the ability to bully. Bullying, once restricted to the school or neighborhood, has now moved into the online world. Bullying through the use of technology is referred to as “cyberbullying.”
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to repeatedly and intentionally harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate another person.
As adults, thinking back, it was just a generation ago that kids and teens were asking their parents for a phone in their room — maybe even one with a separate line or three-way calling — so they could easily and somewhat privately connect with more friends.
Today, a kid or teen’s desire to connect with friends has not changed, but the options for doing so have grown tremendously. Children are not only asking for their own tablets, gaming devices, and mobile phones at a younger age, they also want access to popular social media sites, and the ability to engage in online games and share information.
Just as young people used to spend unmonitored time playing with friends in the neighborhood, outside the periphery of adults, they are now engaging with each other in the cyberworld, “talking” with each other, “talking” to each other, and “talking” about each other, often without adult or parental monitoring. While technology allows young people to connect in meaningful ways, such as the opportunity to share ideas, photos, videos, and more, the unsupervised nature of the cyberworld demands the need for guidance, guidelines, and social responsibility.
Cyberbullying can happen anywhere there is online social interaction. For example, some young people use social media, video games, texting, or anonymous apps to bully other youth, post embarrassing pictures, share private information, or send threatening messages. Students can use their access to a large online audience to encourage their peers to join them in targeting someone with gossip, rumors, and untrue stories.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through text and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
“Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly and intentionally harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices.” (Hinduja & Patchin, 2019 ).
One student shared that “all bullying hurts, whether in person or through technology, the end result is that bullying in any form is emotionally damaging.”Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:
Posting comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing.
Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves.
Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video.
Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else.
Posting mean or hateful names, comments, or content about any race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics online.
Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone.
Doxing, an abbreviated form of the word documents, is a form of online harassment used to exact revenge and to threaten and destroy the privacy of individuals by making their personal information public, including addresses, social security, credit card and phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other private data.
While all bullying is characterized by intentional, often repetitive, hurtful behavior toward another person or group, there are distinguishing elements when it happens online or via smartphone, which include:
Persistent. Most students have access to some form of technology at all times, which means cyberbullying can happen any time—in the morning, afternoon, and evening—not just while children are at school. It happens while at home or in the community.
Hard to detect. While some bullying is very overt, such as pushing or damaging belongings, cyberbullying happens through phones and on computers or tablets, making it much more difficult for adults to detect.
Anonymous. Cyberbullying can be done anonymously. Those being bullied might not even know who is perpetuating the behavior, which makes it easy for one child to hurt another and not be held accountable.
Capable of spreading to a much larger audience. Information online can be shared easily and quickly, which makes it difficult to contain or stop negative messages.
Easier to be hurtful. It is often easier to bully using technology because of greater physical distance The person bullying doesn’t see the immediate response from the person being targeted They might not recognize the serious harm caused by their actions because technology distances them from the real-life pain they could be causing.
Permanent.* Once something is shared on the internet, it is often available to everyone, everywhere It can be challenging to completely delete information once it is on the internet.
Note: The one advantage to “permanence” is that online bullying does leave tangible evidence. Unlike physical or emotional bullying, online bullying leaves a digital footprint; the words, images, or videos posted can be documented through screenshots or saving URLs and texts, which can be useful.
Ways to Help Youth
Children and youth live at a time of instant access to cell phones, tablets, or computers that opens the door to exciting new ways of connecting, interacting, and learning. However, these new modes of communication also present new challenges for the adults who care for them. Not only do parents and other adults help children and youth navigate in-person social situations, they also need to prepare them for healthy relationships online.
Talking with Children and Youth About Technology and the Potential for Bullying
Today’s youth are the first generation to use technology as a means of bullying. Today’s adults are the first who have had to learn how to address cyberbullying with youth. The following steps can help you explore this topic with kids and teens.
Talk about potential for bullying
Start a conversation with your child or student about cyberbullying, keeping in mind that bullying can be hard for children to talk about with adults for many reasons. They might be:
Embarrassed by what is happening
Afraid that the bullying will increase if they tell
Thinking that it is their problem to solve on their own
Cyberbullying is also complicated in that many students might not interpret the mean and hurtful behavior that happens on their computer or cell phone as bullying. Children may also worry that they will lose access to technology if they tell an adult about cyberbullying.
As you open the subject for discussion, let the child know that you recognize that phones, computers, and being connected online with friends is a significant part of their lives, but that you also want them to know how to be safe and handle cyberbullying. Explain that if something hurtful is communicated online, it is important that they tell you so that you can work through the situation together.
So, When Should I Start the Cyberbullying Conversation with My Child or Student?
Adults should discuss online conduct and behavior, as well as cyberbullying, as soon as children begin using technology. There is potential for cyberbullying whenever children are using technology to interact. It can begin as soon as children have access to a cell phone or computer that they can use to connect to gaming sites, social media, text, direct messaging, or group chats.
For ways to start a discussion with your child about cyberbullying and establishing online guidelines, see PACER’s suggestions HERE.
Reports of cyberbullying are highest among middle school students, followed by high school students, and then primary school students (Centers for Disease Control, 2019)
The percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have more than doubled (18% to 37%) from 2007-2019 (Patchin & Hinduia, 2019)
When students were asked about the specific types of cyberbullying they had experienced, mean and hurtful comments (25%) and rumors spread online (22%) were the most commonly-cited (Patchin et al., 2019)
The type of cyberbullying tends to differ by gender. Girls were more likely to say someone spread rumors about them online while boys were more likely to say that someone threatened to hurt them online (Patchin et al., 2019)
There are several challenges for addressing cyberbullying. Parents suggest they lack the knowledge or time to keep up with their children’s’ online behaviors. Schools are educating about cyberbullying with policies, training, and assemblies, yet don’t always know when and how to intervene in cyberbullying when it happens off campus. Law enforcement often can’t get involved unless there is clear evidence of a crime of threat to someone’s safety (Hinduja & Patchin, 2020).
Effective approaches to address cyberbullying requires effort from children, parents, schools, law enforcement, social media companies, and the community (Hinduja & Patchin, 2020).
A multilayered approach can best combat cyberbullying, including educational media campaigns, school-based programs, parental oversight and involvement, legislative action, and screening and evidence-based interventions by health care providers, especially pediatricians and mental health professionals (Aboujaoude, Savage, Starcevic, & Salame, 2015).
Parental involvement can significantly reduce cyberbullying perpetration and victimization. Parents can be taught how to openly discuss cyberbullying with their children, when to meet with school administrators, and when and how to work with a bully’s parents, request that a Web site or service provider remove offending material or contact the police (Aboujaoude, Savage, Starcevic, & Salame, 2015).
Parents can also create an age-appropriate “technology use contract” that identifies behaviors that are and are not appropriate on the Internet, as well as consequences for inappropriate behaviors (Hinduja & Patchin, 2020).
The most common strategies reported by youth to cope with cyberbullying were passive, such as blocking the sender, ignoring or avoiding messages, and protecting personal information. Those who are cyberbullied are most likely to tell a friend about the incident. When asked what coping strategies those who were previously cyberbullied would encourage to someone being cyberbullied include blocking the sender, ignoring the messages, and telling someone, such as a friend. Getting retaliation was the least recommended strategy (Hamm, Newton, & Chisholm, 2015).
Only 33% of teens that were targets of cyberbullying told their parents or guardians about it, because children are worried they will face reduced Internet and cellphone privileges or other punishments (Juvonen & Gross, 2008).
Improving social networking safety skills can help prevent cyberbullying, such as understanding how cyberbullying can cause harm, making sure personal information is not available on social media, keeping social media accounts private, not “friending” people they do not know, and general efficacy (Wölfer, Schultze-Krumbholz, Zagorscak, Jäkel, Göbel, & Scheithauer, 2013 ).
If someone is being cyberbullied, he/she should keep all evidence of cyberbullying, keep a log with the dates and times of the instances, and report the instances (Hinduja & Patchin, 2020).
Bystanders to cyberbullying also have a very critical role to play. Those who witness cyberbullying generally do not want to get involved because of the hassle and problems they fear it might bring upon them, yet they often recognize that what they are seeing is not right and should stop. However, by doing nothing, bystanders are doing something—they are passively encouraging the behavior. By actively standing up—in that moment or right afterward (by defending the target, providing encouragement, helping to block and report the harassment, saving digital evidence, and reaching out to an adult), they can make a huge difference in improving the situation, as targets often feel helpless and hopeless and need someone to come to the rescue (Hinduja & Patchin, 2020 ).
Cyberbullying can result in serious emotional problems for targets, including depression, anger, and sadness. Those who are victimized by cyberbullying also reveal that they are often afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic difficulties, school violence, and various delinquent behaviors. (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015)
Motivations behind cyberbullying include a lack of confidence or desire to feel better about themselves, a desire for control, finding it entertaining, and retaliation (Hamm, Newton, & Chisholm, 2015).
Targets of cyberbullying have a greater chance of becoming bullies themselves, as being cyberbullied can lead to revenge bullying as a way to cope. And, cyberbullies have a greater risk at being bullied in return, resulting in a vicious cycle. Being a cyberbully contributes to a twenty-fold increase of also being a target of cyberbullying (Arslan, Savaser, Hallett, & Balci, 2012).
Because cyberbullying can occur anonymously, cyberbullies can act more aggressively as they feel there will be no consequences. In face-to-face bullying, the bully can view the impact as the attack happens, whereas cyberbullies cannot see any of the immediate outcomes, often resulting in further aggression (Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014).
This article was taken from excerpts written onPACER‘s website and reposted with permission. ClickHERE to see PACER’s website. Links for the information in this post can be found on the following website pages: