The Truth About Cyberbullying

True or False?

  • Cyberbullying victims are at increased risk for traditional bullying victimization, substance use and school problems.

  • Victims of cyberbullying suffer from anger, frustration and sadness.

  • Most victims of cyberbullying tell an adult about their experience.

  • Victims report that they are primarily cyberbullied by strangers.

If you answered “true” for the first two statements and “false” for the last two, you are correct.

News stories abound about young people and bullying. One of the most widely-known incidents is about Megan Meier, a then 13-year-old from Missouri. She became online friends with a person she thought was a new boy in town. The “friend” was actually a group of young people and adults who plotted to humiliate Megan because of a broken friendship with another girl. When Megan discovered the truth, she became distraught and later committed suicide.

Cyberbullying is defined as using the computer or other electronic devices to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It most commonly takes place on the Internet among students from a given school or neighborhood.

Researchers and co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, collected data from more than 15,000 youth regarding their personal cyberbullying experiences. They found that:

  • Five percent of the youth they interviewed claimed to be scared for their own safety.

  • On average, 25 percent of youth have been a victim of cyberbullying.

  • Among this percentage, mean or hurtful comments, and spreading rumors were the most common forms of cyberbullying.

  • More than half of study participants feel that cyberbullying is as bad as, or worse than bullying in real life.

  • 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent told an online friend.

  • 16 percent admitted to bullying another individual online.

  • Most of the bullying offenders said they consider bullying to be fun or instructive; such as a way to strengthen their victims.

Your child uses cell phones, emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, text messages and other methods to communicate electronically. All of them present a potential cyberbullying risk to your child.

What Do Parents Need to Know?

The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating. Cyber victimization can cause poor grades, emotional spirals, poor self-esteem, repeated school absences, depression and in some cases, suicide. These outcomes are similar to those of real-life bullying, except with cyberbullying there is often no escape.

Young people used to be able to avoid the “bully” once school was out. Today's technology now makes it almost impossible to escape. Since few parents closely monitor their child’s digital use, it is far easier for bullies to get away with bullying online than in person. And as the quiz pointed out, kids rarely tell their parents about the bullying.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Establish that all rules for interacting appropriately with people in real life apply online.

  • Explain what cyberbullying is and why it is unacceptable to bully or to allow bullying to continue.

  • Talk with your teen about the nature of REAL friendships.

  • Encourage your child to talk with you any time they believe they or someone they know is dealing with a bully.

  • Model appropriate technology use.

  • Write a technology contract that includes any form of technology used in your home.

Cyberbullying can be a serious threat to the well-being of your child, but the best plan of attack is to be proactive. Being ignorant about technology in this day and age won’t cut it, so you'll want to educate yourself as well as your children. As the saying goes, information is power.

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