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WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING AND HOW TO PREVENT


What is cyberbulling?

Cyberbullying is deliberately and repeatedly inflicting harm using electronic devices, gaming apps, and online social media platforms. It often manifests as hate accounts, hurtful social media posts, online rumors and gossip, and mean comments while gaming.


The intention is almost always to embarrass, threaten, humiliate, intimidate, or abuse the intended target. When a person uses the Internet or technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person, this person is called a cyberbully.Bottom of Form Cyberbullying is a growing social problem that has become all too common in online communities. During the pandemic of the COVID-19, cyberbullying escalated and increased 70% and toxicity on online gaming platforms increased 40% .


Types of Cyberbullying


Every day kids use their smartphones, tablets, and computers to research material for school but also to socialize with friends and family members. In fact, texting and using social media is one of the top ways kids communicate with others. But, the opportunity for bullying exists. The majority of online harassment falls into one of five categories. These include harassment, impersonation, photograph use, website creation, and video shaming.


· Harassment is a common method of online bullying. This is when someone uses technology to torment another person. One way kids harass others is when they use a site's report button as a way to get another person in trouble or kicked offline even when they are doing nothing wrong. Kids also participate in text wars or text attacks. Kids may even post rude, mean, or insulting comments in the chat option of online gaming sites or on social networking sites. Other times, they will using text messaging, instant messaging, and email to harass, threaten, or embarrass the target.


· Impersonation is where one person impersonates another person online. One of the most common way is to hack the account or steal the password and make changes to the target's profile. When they have access, they might post sexual, racist, or other inappropriate things to ruin the target's social standing and reputation. Also, they might chat with other people while pretending to be the victim. Catfishing is another form of impersonation when kids pretend to be someone else in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship.


· Inappropriate Photographs is when someone use photographs to bully or shame other people. Photos can include embarrassing or inappropriate images that were either shared privately with them or taken without the target knowing like in a locker room, a bathroom, or dressing room. This behavior is often called “sexting” and once the photos are sent, there is no way to control it. Also, kids can use embarrassing photos as to controll or blackmail the victim.


· Website Creation - kids who cyberbully others will create a website, blog, or poll to harass another person. Questions in the poll can be extremely hurtful questions like asking people to rank their peers by their looks or their weight. They also can create a website or a blog about the target that is embarrassing, insulting, or humiliating, and might even post the target's personal information and pictures putting them in danger of being contacted by predators.


· Video Shaming - Videos are frequently used for online bullying and are used to shame and embarrass the targets. It includes uploading a video of something humiliating that happened to the target and post it to YouTube or share it by mass e-mail or text message. In other situations, it might can be created an incident that causes the target to become upset or emotional and then record the incident. Also they can record and later share a bullying incident. Situations may include slapping, hitting, kicking, or punching the target.


Consequences of cyberbullying


Those who are cyberbullied suffer a number of different consequences, including struggling emotionally, physically, mentally, and academically. Cyberbullying is a significant stressor in a young person’s life. It leaves young people feeling hurt, embarrassed, even scared. They often blame themselves for the tortment and harassment they were expirienced and also they are extremely stressed out. Nearly 35% of cyberbullied have symtoms of stress. Kids targeted by cyberbullies also may experience physical symptoms in response to the stress they are experiencing. They may complain of stomachaches, headaches, skin conditions, and other physical ailments. Kids' sleeping and eating habits are impacted by cyberbullying. Sometimes they will crash diet or binge eat as either a way of coping with the cyberbullying or as an attempt to alter the way they look in hopes the cyberbullying will end. Also, teens may skip school or have trouble concentrating on their studies because cyberbullying is consuming all of their time and energy. It's also not uncommon and it’s very often for cyberbullying victims to feel alone and isolated. This experience, impacts their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.


Ultimately, cyberbullying can lead to self-harm and even suicidal thoughts! They may start to think that the suicide is the only way to escape the tortment!



How to Prevent Cyberbullying


There is no proof way to prevent your child from ever being cyberbullied, but there are things you can do together to reduce the possibility they will be targeted. This includes implementing safety measures as having conversations about cyberbullying, to discuss what cyberbullying is, what arethe risks associated with experiencing it, and how it can escalate. It's also important to talk to your kids and teens about how to use social media safely and responsibly and what they should do if they are bullied online.


Protect Accounts and Devices - It's important that your child use passwords on everything. Passwords are one of the most effective ways to protect accounts and devices. Explain that child should never share their passwords with anyone, including their best friend.

Use Privacy Tools and Settings - Make sure they are aware of the privacy settings and tools offered by the organization. Almost every social media platform, including Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and TikTok have privacy settings. Go through each account with your child and help them set their privacy settings to the most secure settings.

Keep Personal Stuff Private - Kids should never share their address, cell phone number, or email address online. They should be careful about sharing too much information about school, especially if they have friends or followers online that they don't know really well.Remind them that people are not always who they claim to be online.

Manage Location Sharing - Some smartphones allow users to share their location with friends and the people will always know where they are. Have a discussion with your child about who they can share their location with or if they can share it at all. Also, some photos taken with smartphones already contain geotags and people can use it to determine child’s location. Child needs to be mindful about which photos they are sharing and when.


Teach Kids to Think Before Posting - Help your teens to get the habit of taking some time before posting. They could create a post offline and then come back to it in an hour and decide if they still want to post it. Encourage your child to take time to think before posting. Your child will be able to think through what they are posting and determine whether or not it's something they want to post publicly. This is a good practice for kids in order to maintain a healthy relationship with social media. Using social media and other online tools is a privilege, not a right, and one that can be taken away if they are unable to use it responsibly.


Conduct a Social Media Audit - Every month or so, sit down with yourteen and go through their social media accounts. Together, determine what posts may need to be deleted from their account. This is especially important as they prepare to apply to college or look for a new job. Together with your teen, be sure your teen's posts and photos are sending the message they want others to receive.


Log Out When Using Public Devices - Remind your teen that when they are using public computers or laptops, they should log out of any account they use. This includes e-mail, social media accounts, their school account, and any other account they may open. Simply closing the tab is not enough.

Refuse to Respond to Cyberbullies - If child doesn’t have experience with cyberbullying, they should refrain from responding. This means they should not argue, try to explain, or engage in any way with a cyberbully. If child refuses to give cyberbullies anything to go on, they are left with one-sided communications. In the meantime, they should take screenshots of the harassment and save it as proof of the encounter. This documentation may be needed when reporting a cyberbully.


Report Cyberbullies - Make sure your child knows that they should always report cyberbullying. This includes not only telling you what is happening, but also letting the social media platform, internet service provider, and any other necessary parties know what is going on. You may even need to contact the police to put an end to the harassment. Once all the reports have been filed, take the appropriate steps to block the person or account responsible for the cyberbullying. If the kids or teens are witness cyberbullying online, they should refrain from participating in the cyberbullying and instead look for ways to support the person being targeted.


Whether you are looking to protect your child in the online world it is never too late (or too early) to implement strategies to prevent cyberbullying. Strategize your kids how they can protect themselves from toxic people online. You should also talk to them about what steps to take if they are cyberbullied, including how to report cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities. Try to refrain from taking away technology or limiting your child's access to online tools. Teach them how to use these tools safely and responsibly. Doing so will benefit them for the rest of their lives.



Marija Šutulović

Clinical psychologist

Advisor to the IPO Honorary President

for prevention of peer and domestic violence




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