What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as repeated harm or embarrassment to an individual(s) through the use of an electronic device such as a tablet, computer, or cell phone. Examples may include but are not limited to using text or other electronic means to spread rumors, mock or ridicule someone, intimidate or threaten someone, or intentionally exclude someone.
Who Is Most At Risk of Being a Cyberbullying Target?
Older children, such as tweens and teens are especially At-Risk for being targets of cyberbullying. It is at this age (e.g., 11 to 15 years old) when many of our youth begin to enter the online world alone, at times unprepared for what can happen. Sometimes they are left to their own devices, with little to no supervision or interference from adults.
For this reason, it is so important that we educate students, parents and teachers about cyberbullying. Youth need to know what to do when cyberbullying occurs such as:
- block individuals who cyberbully/do not engage with them at all
- keep all their settings private or do not use social media
- save harassing messages/texts/videos/photos for proof
- talk to an adult they trust
- have an adult monitor their account
- take a stand if they see cyberbullying (e.g., talk to a trusted adult, be a friend to a victim of cyberbullying)
- refuse to participate or engage in cyberbullying behaviors
What Can We Do to Help Prevent Cyberbullying?
With awareness and meaningful discussion, we can empower our youth to take a stand against cyberbullying themselves. We can also give parents and teachers information and tips to protect children and teens.
See Infographic Below for Important Information About Protecting Youth (i.e., teens) from Cyberbullying:
What is the Impact of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can quickly grow from something that may seem or feel small, to something that feels big and out of control (e.g., posts can be shared, go viral, spread quickly, etc).
This can impact the youth’s social-emotional, academic, and/or behavioral functioning.
Please look for signs in your child/student such as withdrawal, poor grades, a sullen look, avoidance of certain activities or certain students, self-harm, sudden change in mood or attitude, sudden change in focus, etc. that could indicate a problem such as cyberbullying is disrupting a youth’s life.
Additional Information About Cyberbullying Awareness and Prevention
Although, like many of us, I went through a lot as a child with bullying myself; this was back in the 1980s and I could escape school bullies at home. Many of today’s children don’t share that experience, because a large portion of their social interactions occurs online, over social media, or via text messaging.
As a former victim of bullying, I, like many of us, know the personal toll it takes on the body and mind. Students who have a history of being the victim of significant bullying or cyberbullying often end up with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. A student who is being bullied or cyberbullied may be afraid to go to school (even online school) and may not even want to leave their house or their room.
Additionally, over time, after repeated bouts of bullying for years, victims may develop symptoms of one or more personality disorders (e.g., narcissistic personality, borderline personality, histrionic personality, antisocial personality disorder).
These personality disorders can lead to reckless and/or impulsive behaviors that may be considered abusive, unhealthy, or dangerous (to oneself or others). This is often due to a lack of emotional maturity; possibly because healthy emotional growth was impacted during the developmental years due to excessive bullying. Low self-worth, lack of identity, or emotional detachment from others often plays a role.
It is for these reasons, that it is crucial that we provide our children, parents, teachers, etc. with the knowledge and tools to minimize cyberbullying and its impact on today’s youth. We want our children to emerge from the cocoon of childhood as confident and caring adults. Preventing and minimizing bullying and cyberbullying will aid in this process. Research shows that bullying is detrimental to mental health.
- How to End Bullying Part 1: 19 Tips for Parents and Teachers
- How to End Bullying Part 2: 15 Tips for Kids
Education and Behavior – A Free Resource for Parents, Educators, and Counselors! Keeping Us on the Same Page!!
Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.