What is Cyberbullying? How to Help Children and Teenagers Who are Cyberbullied

Monday October 7, 2019 is #Blue Up Day in recognition of World Bullying Prevention

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. This can be done by trolling, flaming, harassment, cyberstalking, catfishing, fraping, griefing, outing and roasting.

Cyber bullying is dangerous and can have a significant and harmful impact upon one’s mental health and well being.

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is epidemic especially amongst teenagers and young adults. A September 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 59% of US teens have been bullied or harassed online, and 90% of teens believe online harassment is a problem that affects people their age (www.pewinternet.org).

Types of Cyberbullying

  • Catfishing: using fake profiles to trick child/teenager into starting an on-line relationship
  • Griefing: abusing children/teenagers in on-line games
  • Trolling: posting antagonizing and insulting messages
  • Flaming: sending provocative messages to start a fight
  • Harassment: targeting a child/teenager to scare him/her
  • Cyberstalking: using technology to harass/scare
  • Fraping: logging into a child/teenager’s profile and posing as him/her
  • Roasting: repeatedly abusing a child/teenager on-line until he/she ‘cracks’
  • Outing: publicly sharing someone’s personal information

First Steps
When a kid is being cyberbullied, the most important thing to remember, is to not respond to or share the post on social media. Whilst this can be very difficult, engaging the on-line bully will not stop the cyberbullying, it will only enrage him/her, and the bullying will escalate.
The first thing a kid should do is to save the posts (screenshots, copy/paste, print out) and report the cyberbullying to a trusted adult e.g. parent, guardian, teacher, coach, family member. Once an adult is aware, the next steps to take are to block the cyberbully and report the bullying to the on-line platform on which the cyberbullying took place e.g. Facebook, Snapchat, etc. (Many social media sites have “safety centres” where cyberbullying can be reported.)

If the cyberbullying occurred on a website, report to the website administrator as it is likely the bully is going against the websites terms of use and may face legal repercussions. Depending on the type and degree of cyberbullying, other strategies that may be necessary to stop the cyberbullying and promote safety include contacting the cellphone and internet provider, reporting to the police, school, and the Office of Civil Rights (if infringements of civil rights: race, religion, sex, disability).

Support
Any kid who is cyberbullied will likely feel hurt, confused, angry, sad, even betrayed and/or humiliated. It is so very important that the kid can share his/her concerns, fears, and thoughts about what the bully said/did. The adult(s) should listen AND hear what is being said and be non-judgemental, supportive and understanding. Validate the kid’s concerns, discuss strategies to deal with the bully and how to prevent further episodes of cyberbullying, it is also helpful to explain why someone cyberbullies. Two great educational websites for kids are: PBS Kids Webonauts Internet Academy (pbskids.org) and FBI Safe Online Surfing (sos.fbi.gov/).
Honest and open conversations about bullying, especially cyberbullying and cybersecurity should become a regular routine with kids and parents/adults. Sit and talk about the websites, chatrooms, on-line games and social media sites he/she visit, ask if the kid has noticed anything strange or is aware of someone else being cyberbullied. Parents should explain that cyberbullying is very serious and whilst they trust the kid and respect his/her privacy, they will monitor the different sites the kid regularly visits to ensure there is no cyberbullying or privacy breaches. The greatest gift a parent/adult mentor can do is to empower the kid and foster values such as self-worth, compassion, respect and kindness not only for oneself, but for everyone.

Some great suggestions for kids to stand in their own power and say ‘no to bullying’:

  • Join a martial arts class – fosters assertion, control, strength and calmness and to be part of a community where respect is the key value.
  • Start a ‘Say No to Bullying’ club at school, church, activity center, and/or on-line
  • Become a role model and mentor to other kids being bullied.
  • Participate in local and global cyberbullying/bullying events e.g. pink shirt day.
  • Ask school, church, etc. to host information session/workshop on cyberbullying.
  • Talk about cyberbullying with friends, make pact to support one another and to be available to help when someone is being bullied.
  • Write an inspirational quote that resonates with you in schoolbook, on mirror, or in phone and read it daily.
  • Parents can also write powerful affirmations and quotes to kids and put in lunchbox, bedroom, sports bag, etc. Or, place a jar filled with powerful and loving notes and encourage your kids to take a note every day. Let your kids know how important and valued they are, how much they are loved.

What should kids do if they see someone being cyberbullied?
The key to dealing with any type of bullying is that everyone works together to stand up to bullying and help to empower and support the victims of bullying: be an upstander, not a bystander. When a kid(s) sees someone being cyberbullied, he/she should reach out and help the person. Encourage him/her to block the cyberbully and report (follow suggestions above). Similarly, the kid should report the incident to a trusted adult and block the cyberbully too.

Be there as a friend and talk with the cyberbully victim, listen, offer support and guidance on what to do next and reinforce that what has happened is not his/her fault, and that you know what the bully wrote is not true. Tell the person that he/she will experience many different emotions, it is normal, and not to seek revenge but to stand tall and reach out to friends and family who understand and who will be there to support and talk with.

Some great on-line resources to help kids and parents stay safe and understand more about cyberbullying:

In my next Blog #18
I Will Discuss the ‘Circle of Bullying’ and Signs a Child/Teenager is Being Bullied

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