If you have a teenager, chances are they are using the internet and/or social media fairly often. In fact, a recent study showed 92% of American teens using the internet on a daily basis. Because of this large number, many children ages 12-18 are experiencing what is known as “cyberbullying.”
What is cyberbullying?
Stopbullying.gov classifies cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets” and “can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content.” Cyberbullying can include a wide range of things like sending/posting/sharing negative, harmful, or false information about someone.
How often does it occur?
Cyberbullying.org reported that 36.5% of students were a target for cyberbullying which is the highest it has ever been. That doesn’t come as a surprise considering that the majority of teens spend time daily connected to the internet or to a device. These numbers could very likely be much higher but with most social media companies being private, online bullying is often difficult to track with 100% accuracy.
How can I spot cyberbullying?
These overwhelming statistics show that cyberbullying is part of the harsh reality of teenagers. Cyberbullying comes in many forms but some of the most common are:
- Offensive name calling
- Spreading false rumors
- Physical threats
- Receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for
- Having explicit images of themselves shared without permission
Many popular social media apps make it easier for teens to cyberbully because it only takes a click to leave a cruel comment or share false/hurtful information quickly. Currently, Snapchat and Tiktok are the most used apps by 13-17 year olds. Other apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and standard text messaging are also often used to cyberbully.
Some warning signs of cyberbullying are “withdrawing from social activities, avoiding school, dropping grades, or appearing anxious or sad after going online.”
How can I prevent cyberbullying?
Most devices allow for parental controls. Setting up parental controls and only allowing social media use when monitored, can help deter cyberbullying. There are also many great resources available for parents. A great place to start is the website Stopybullying.gov. It is a great support tool for parents as well as teens who are experiencing cyberbullying. Another resource for just parents is the app “KnowBullying” which can “help you boost your child’s confidence, resilience, and build effective strategies for facing bullying.”
This new era of constantly being connected is only going to cause cyberbullying to become more and more prevalent in teens lives. It is important to talk with your child about how dangerous and harmful cyberbullying can be as well as keeping an eye out for the signs that your child is experiencing it themselves.