Putting a Stop to High-Tech Harassment
Social media has drawn some negative attention recently for the potential hazards to privacy, spreading misinformation and personal safety these channels can present. While many of these technology organizations are taking steps to implement better protections, the most effective solutions lie with those who use social media. Taking personal precautions becomes even more critical when children use these platforms. One of the most prevalent dangers to children and their use of online technology and social media is becoming involved in cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. 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. Parents need to be vigilant, not just to stop their child from being victimized through cyberbullying, but also to be sure their child isn’t using technology to cyberbully others.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together resources to combat cyberbullying and other forms of bullying on a website at www.stopbullying.gov. The site includes guidelines for parents, educators and those in the local and online community to use to put a stop to this pervasive behavior.
Warning Signs a Child is Being Cyberbullied or is Cyberbullying Others
Many of the warning signs of cyberbullying happen around a child’s use of their device. Some clues that a child may be involved in cyberbullying are:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child’s emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- Hiding their screen or device when others are near and avoiding 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 they enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed or loses interest in people and activities.
What to Do When Cyberbullying Happens
If you notice warning signs that a child may be involved in cyberbullying, take steps to investigate that child’s digital behavior. Adults should support the child being bullied, address the bullying behavior of a participant, and show children that cyberbullying is taken seriously. Because cyberbullying happens online, responding to it requires different approaches. If you think that a child is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do:
- Notice if a child exhibits 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 with them to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
- Document what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible.
- Report these harmful activities. Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. Contact 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.
Cyberbullying, like other forms of bullying, is not simply childish or adolescent misbehavior. It has frequently resulted in deadly consequences. All of us have a responsibility to help end this online harassment now.