(CYBER)bullying | INTERNET SAFETY

What is (cyber)bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power and repetition. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

 

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying 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 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.

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Types of Bullying

There are three types of bullying...

Verbal bullying

Saying or writing/posting mean things which includes:

  • Teasing

  • Name-calling

  • Inappropriate sexual comments

  • Taunting

  • Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying

Involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships which includes:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose

  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone

  • Spreading rumors about someone

  • Embarrassing someone in public

Physical bullying

Involves hurting a person’s body or possessions which includes:

  • Hitting/kicking/pinching

  • Spitting

  • Tripping/pushing

  • Taking or breaking someone’s things

  • Making mean or rude hand gestures

Who Is at Risk?

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as LGBTQ+ youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied. 

Children at Risk of Being Bullied

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Are perceived as "different" from their peers, such as being overweight/underweight, wearing "unpopular" clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”

  • Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves

  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem

  • Are "less popular" than others and have few friends

  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.

Children More Likely to Bully Others

There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others:

  • Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others.

  • Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others;

  • Are aggressive or easily frustrated

  • Have less parental involvement or having issues at home

  • Think badly of others

  • Have difficulty following rules

  • View violence in a positive way

  • Have friends who bully others

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

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warning signs

There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying. A child can be bullied, bully others, or witness bullying. Not all children who are bullied ask for help. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

Signs a Child Is Being Bullied

Be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.

  • Unexplainable injuries

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry

  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness

  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch

  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school

  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations

  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem

  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

SIGNS A CHILD IS BEING CYBERBULLIED

Many of the warning signs that cyberbullying is occurring happen around a child’s use of their electronic device.

  • Noticeable increases or decreases in device use

  • A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device

  • A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device

  • Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear

  • A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past

  • A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities

Why don't kids ask for help?

Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons...

  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.

  • Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them

  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.

  • Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.

  • Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.

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What to Do When Cyberbullying Happens

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying, and adults should take the same approach to address it: support the child being bullied, address the bullying behavior of a participant, and show children that cyberbullying is taken seriously. There are several things one can do...

Notice

Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.

talk

Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.

Document

Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.

Report

Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.

Support

Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content posts about a child. Public Intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional. 

Establishing rules

Check in frequently with your children about their digital experiences to address any potential risk of cyberbullying and harm. Be clear that your intention is to look out for their wellbeing, and that you want to have an open dialogue. Listen to their concerns and express your perspective. To minimize the risk of cyberbullying or harm from digital behavior, parents can...

  • Set clear expectations about digital behavior and online reputation

  • Educate about the harmful effects of cyberbullying, posting hateful speech or comments, sexting, and sharing naked photos of themselves or others (including potential legal issues)

  • Be clear about what content can be viewed or shared

  • Identify which apps are appropriate for your child’s use and which are not

  • Establish rules about the amount of time that a child can spend online or on their devices

  • Model positive, respectful digital behavior on your own devices and accounts

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how to deal with "haters"

"Hater" is a label used to refer to people who use negative and critical comments and behavior to bring another person down by making them look or feel bad. Haters are often anonymous (especially online) but they can also be acquaintances, peers, or people who were once considered friends. Dealing with haters isn’t that different from dealing with bullying and cyberbullying.

Ignore it

Walk away. Don’t react or respond to negative comments. If it continues, there are other things you can do. If someone threatens you, report it to a parent, teacher, or a trusted adult!

Block online haters

If someone is making negative or hateful comments on your posts or account, or is cyberbullying, block them. If they’re threatening you, tell your parents, report it to the platform, and take screenshots.

Be kind and respectful

It shows that you’re in control of your emotions and that you aren’t letting negativity bring you down.

Stick with supporters

Having a friend nearby if you think you might encounter a hater not only makes it less likely that an incident might happen, but also means you’ll have positive reinforcements just in case.

Remind yourself

Comments from a hater are a reflection of them and aren’t really about you. People who feel good about themselves don’t need to put others down.

Understand criticism can be a sign of pain

People sometimes lash out because they have other life struggles. Negative comments may have nothing to do with you.

Acknowledge your feelings

Talk to a trusted adult or friend and get some encouragement and support.

Keep being you

Keep moving forward, pursuing your interests, and being who you are.