It used to be that bullying meant getting your lunch delivered or getting a nosebleed after school. Today, however, bullying has gone high-tech. “Cyberbullying” is when a child, preteen or adolescent is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, or otherwise attacked by another minor using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or mobile phones. With their identities hidden behind computer screens, cyber stalkers can be harder to catch, and sometimes even bolder, than their playground predecessors. Sadly, children have even committed suicide after being victims of cyberbullying. Recently, criminal charges were brought against several teenagers in the highly publicized case of Phoebe Prince, 15, of South Hadley, Massachusetts. The young woman committed suicide in January after enduring relentless “cyber” and other bullying from her classmates.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) report that approximately one in four youth has been involved in bullying in some way. Bullies are considered popular and their victims are at higher risk of suicide. Both the aggressor and the victim can suffer from depression, the main cause of suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. Male adolescents are more likely to commit suicide than girls. A CDC study also showed that 14.5 percent of U.S. high school students reported that they seriously considered suicide in the year before the survey, and 6.9 percent said they had attempted suicide one or more times. in the same period. Tragically, many children who have been bullied end up taking their own lives.
The incidence of cyberbullying is expected to increase as more children use texting and email as forms of communication. Sue Limber and Robin Kowalski, researchers and teachers at Clemson University in South Carolina, recently completed a study of 3,767 students in grades 6-8. Some of their findings include the following:
- The most common form of cyberbullying is instant messaging.
- Chat mail and emails were very close
- Girls were twice as likely as boys to be victims
i-Safe has surveyed 1,500 students in grades 4-8. His sobering statistics indicate:
- 42% of children have been bullied while online. It has happened to 1 in 4 more than once.
- 35% of children have been threatened online. Almost 1 in 5 have had it more than once.
- 21% of children have received malicious or threatening emails or other messages.
- 58% of children admit that someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 in 10 say it has happened more than once.
- 53% of children admit to saying something cruel or hurtful to someone else online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something bad or hurtful that happened to them online.
It is important for parents to recognize whether their child is a bully or a victim. Brandy Williams, a Texas public school educator and consultant, lists the signs of both a cyberbullying and the victim of cyberbullying.
Signs that your child is a cyberbully
- Use the computer at all hours of the night.
- Quickly switch screens and / or close windows as you pass by.
- The child is unusually upset when he cannot use the computer.
- Avoid discussions about what they are doing online.
- Laughs excessively while using the computer.
- They get irritated if you interrogate them or interrupt their time at the computer.
Signs Your Child Is Being Cyberbullying
- Unexpectedly or suddenly stops using the computer.
- Appears nervous, nervous, anxious, or scared when an instant message appears.
- Suspends interest in going to school, extracurricular and / or general outdoor activities.
- Are visibly angry, frustrated, depressed, or moody after using the computer
- He becomes abnormally withdrawn and distant from family, friends, and favorite activities.
- Lack of appetite with food in general and specific favorite foods.
The following are Tips on cyberbullying for your children:
- Tell a trusted adult about the bullying and keep telling it until you find someone to take action.
- Do not open or read messages from cyberbullies.
- Tell a teacher or administrator at your school if it is related to the school.
- Do not delete the messages ~ they may be necessary to act.
- Protect yourself: never agree to meet face-to-face with someone you meet online.
- If you are harassed through chat or instant messaging, the “stalker” can often be blocked.
- If you are threatened with harm, report it to the local police.
It is important for adults to be proactive in making changes against cyberbullying. Often times, no action is taken until the situation gets out of control. Children are often reluctant to trust their parents for fear of retaliation, that is, losing their “cyber privileges.” Cyber bullies deserve to be punished as a result of their actions. Steps can be taken to collect timestamps on chat sessions and IP addresses. Computer hard drives can be searched for hidden IP addresses and chat logs. Enough information can be gathered to present to the school and law enforcement personnel to press charges. Professional help should also be considered, due to the higher incidence of depression among both the aggressor and the victim. A psychologist can offer a safe haven for children to discuss their fears and concerns. Ultimately, this could lead to saving the lives of both the cyber stalker and the cyber victim.