What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying refers to the practice of using technology to harass, or bully, someone else. Before bullies were only found on the playground but now they can reach farther and faster with media such as email and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to name a few. It can affect any age group; however, young teenagers are common victims.

What forms can Cyber bullying take?

  • Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
  • Spreading rumors online or through texts
  • Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
  • Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
  • Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
  • Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet

What are some cyberbullying facts?

  • Only 1 in 10 teen tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
  • 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
  • Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying
  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.

Why has cyberbullying become such a problem?

The internet gives the bully easy access to their victim.  Some bullies can be more vicious because there is no personal contact. Cyberbullies can also think they are funny and not realize the consequences of their cyberbullying. Most young teenagers are online making cyberbullying is a growing problem.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Be careful where you post personal information - Limit the number of people who have access to your contact information. This may limit your risk of becoming a victim and may make it easier to identify the bully if you are victimized. Check your security setting on social media often to check if their privacy settings have changed. 
  • Avoid escalating the situation - Often bullies thrive on the reaction of their victims. First try to ignore the bully but keep a record of the bullying behavior in case the situation escalates. If the behavior continues block the bully from communicating with you and contact the carrier or website where the bullying is happening. Firmly, with the help of a trusted adult, ask the bully to "Stop it". 
  • Document the activity - Keep a record of any bullying activity, including relevant dates and times. In addition to archiving an electronic version, consider printing a copy.
  • Report cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities - If you are being harassed or threatened, report the activity to the local authorities.  Depending on the activity, it may also be appropriate to report it to school officials who may have separate policies for dealing with activity that involves students.

What can you do as a parent to help reduce cyberbullying?

  • Talks to teens about cyber bullying, explaining that it is wrong and can have serious consequences. Make a rule that teens may not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it!
  • Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring. Tell them they will not be punished, and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
  • Teens should keep cyber bullying messages as proof that the cyber bullying is occurring. The teens’ parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyber bully, to the bully’s Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.
  • Try blocking the person sending the messages. It may be necessary to get a new phone number or email address and to be more cautious about giving out the new number or address.
  • Teens should never tell their password to anyone except a parent, and should not write it down in a place where it could be found by others.
  • Teens should not share anything through text or instant messaging on their cell phone or the Internet that they would not want to be made public – remind teens that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are, and that things posted electronically may not be secure.
  • Encourage teens never to share personal information online or to meet someone they only know online.
  • Keep the computer in a shared space like the family room, and do not allow teens to have Internet access in their own rooms.
  • Encourage teens to have times when they turn off the technology, such as at family meals or after a certain time at night.