Before social media became so prevalent, instances of bullying were somewhat easy to recognize.
However, with a good majority of children now engaged in digital networking and social media, bullying may not end with the ringing of the school bell, and evidence of bullying may not be so readily apparent.
According to cyberbullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation, more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
More than 80 per cent of teens use a mobile phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for repeated cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying takes place through electronic technology and differs from traditional forms of bullying.
Cyberbullying can occur via text messaging, blogging, updates to social media sites and/or phone conversations. What makes cyberbullying more difficult to detect and remedy than traditional bullying is that sometimes this type of bullying is veiled in secrecy.
Those who engage in cyberbullying can create aliases and accounts under false names, allowing them to covertly engage in bullying behavior. As a result, tracking down bullies can be challenging.
Although cyberbullying is on the rise, there are some things that parents and children can do to help put a stop to such unfortunate instances.
• Parents who feel their child is not emotionally ready for the responsibility of a digital device can hold back on purchasing a smartphone or choose one with very limited features. Some schools set strict limits on phone usage at school, and children who go only from school to home and vice versa may not have the need for an “emergency phone” that can open up a window for trouble.
• Adolescents and teens should feel comfortable talking with their parents without the fear of reprimand.
Otherwise, they may hide instances of cyberbullying or not know how to broach sensitive topics like bullying. Parents can engage in conversation with their children often and stress that the doors of communication are always open.
• Teens should be made aware that cyberbullying is a very real occurrence and is not just other kids “having fun” or “joking.” If behaviour is repetitive and hurtful, it should be made public and addressed.
• Parents can monitor and limit their children’s personal accounts. Some smartphone and tablet applications can be mirrored on the main account, enabling parents to see incoming text or video messages.
• A laptop or desktop computer should be placed in a shared space so that usage can be monitored. Parents can restrict tablet or smartphone usage to public areas.
• When online, children should be advised not to share personal information. Social media sites may be used by bullies to gather sensitive information about a person that can be used against them at a later time. Children should be urged to keep passwords secret and to never give information such as birthdays, phone numbers and addresses to people who aren’t close friends. Friend lists should be restricted to only those people students interact with frequently to minimize the chance for bullying or other inappropriate behavior.
• Teens who have been bullied can keep evidence of the bullying and may benefit from talking with a counselor.
Cyberbullying is a growing concern for educators and parents and has far-reaching implications. Getting smart about this phenomenon can help staunch new cases of online bullying.