Many teenagers and young adults have experienced bullying at school, at their part-time jobs, and in their close social networks. Adolescence is a period of time that, for some, is difficult to endure, and lots of teenagers have been emotionally and physically traumatized by the experience. With the increased use of technology, bullying now not only occurs in face-to-face context, but also online.
Cyberbullying is a growing occurrence amongst young people that has serious consequences for many victims. Young people are being hurt and losing self-esteem and confidence. According to cyberbullying research conducted by the Cybersmile Foundation, every 20 minutes, a young person between the ages of 10–19 attempts suicide. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that found 16% of high school students were victims of cyberbullying in 2011. These alarmingly high numbers show that adults need to be aware of what is occurring in young peoples' lives and recognize signs of cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs online via smart phones, computers, and tablets. It occurs through email, text messages, social media, or online gaming and can involve:
- Sending mean messages to someone
- Spreading rumors on public forums
- Posting embarrassing photographs or stories
- Using a fake profile to trick or deceive someone
According to StopBullying.gov, teenagers who experience cyberbullying are often bullied in person as well. It's hard for young people to escape cyberbullying, because they can be subjected to it easily. Remind your child never to post personal information online such as telephone numbers, bank details, and addresses because unwanted parties can use this information. And remind kids to never meet people face-to-face that they only know online.
How to spot the warning signs
Many parents are unaware that their child is a victim of bullying until it becomes very serious. There are, however, ways that you can spot the warning signs. Victims of cyberbullying will often:
- Become withdrawn or unsocial
- Have trouble sleeping
- Avoid going online or using their phones
- Quickly close web pages if someone comes near
- Avoid or refuse to go to school
How can cyberbullying be prevented?
While it is difficult to control how young people use the internet, parents should be aware of how their children are interacting online and be vigilant for any changes in behavior that may have resulted from cyberbullying. Encourage teenagers to speak openly about any issues they are encountering and suggest they do not respond to any online attacks. If they are being abused in social media settings, they should block the offender and remove them from their profile.