by Amy Williams
“Kill yourself or we will kill your family.”
This is just a sampling of the messages a 13 year old Alabama girl received from her cyberbullies. Her parents are furious that their daughter is continuously the victim of cruel digital attacks and threats. Besides emotional trauma, their family is worried about their safety and fear for their daughter.
This scenario might sound like an isolated event, but cyberbullying is quickly turning into an epidemic facing our children. Our children and teens are connected with technology today in ways we never imagined. This digital anonymity and connectivity is fostering digital aggression in our children.
The Frightening Numbers Of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying isn’t just a scary headline or one-in-a-million story, the facts of cyberbullying don’t lie. They offer parents and educators a real glimpse into how prevalent this form of digital abuse is in our society. Listed below is a compilation of data and statistics that reveal the true impact this digital blight has on our youth…
- 52% of children and teens report that they have been the victim of a cyberbully
- One-third of the victims admit that their online bullies threaten them
- One-tenth of all students in the middle and high school grades have had “hate terms” slurred at them via technology
- 55% of teens acknowledge that they have seen bullying on Social Media
- 95% of these witnesses admit that they often ignore digital bullying behaviors
- It is estimated that over half of young Social Media users avoid informing their parents if they are a victim of cyberbullying
Understanding The Damaging Side Effects
Cyberbullying is a unique situation, because our children’s love of technology allows bullies unlimited access to their victims. There is no filter or safety zone for a victim to hide or seek refuge. Many incidents of cyberbullying quickly spread beyond the classroom, school, or city allowing this viral tendency to make children feel everyone agrees with the aggressor.
This mentality can provoke feelings of low self-esteem, thoughts of suicide, and suffering from depression. There have been known cases of victims retaliating online and, in turn, becoming the bully. In the case of cyberbullying, there are no winners and everyone eventually hurts.
Tips For Parents To Overcome Cyberbullying
Thankfully, informed and involved parents have the ability to help a child overcome adversities, like cyberbullying, by following these recommendations:
- Encourage discussions and conversations about cyberbullying and emotions. This can be difficult, but it is vital parents know what is happening in our children’s lives.
- Start teaching children digital responsibility and Social Media etiquette. Children need to be taught what is expected. Make sure you are helping them learn manners for the digital age.
- Strengthen a child’s privacy by helping them adjust their settings.
- Interact only with close friends and family they personally know.
- Be aware of people using fake profiles to gain trust or access to your child’s information.
- Don’t be afraid to block users or unfriend people online.
- If your child is receiving threatening or harassing messages document them! Learn how to screenshot, save texts, copy messages, and create a trail of evidence needed to seek intervention from authorities.
- If your child is experiencing cyberbullying- open and read his or her messages together. This will allow you to see exactly what is being said, help document, and offer support for your child.
- Look for a support group, counselor, or forum to help your child know they are not alone.
- Help your child understand this is a phase and things will ultimately improve.
- Use the recommended age guidelines. Minimum age requirements will help your child be emotionally mature enough to handle freedoms and responsibilities of Social Media.
- Use Social Media and technology yourself. Navigate online apps so you are familiar with the technology. You will be able to pinpoint problem areas and model appropriate usage.
- Restrict the amount of time a child is allowed to use their cell phone or the Internet. Reclaim bedrooms, bathrooms, family dinners, and face-to-face interactions by keeping electronics out in the open for certain time periods every day.
- Look for apps or software that allows you access to a child’s cell phone, text messages, and Social Media activity.
- Know the Social Media and devices your child uses. Stay up-to-date on current apps, trends, and profiles they are using. Friend your children and know their passwords, usernames, and friends.
Logging Off Cyberbullying
Unfortunately, the threatened young girl in Alabama is not alone in her suffering. Many families find themselves embroiled in a desperate fight to protect their sons and daughters from the dark side of Social Media and cell phones. Parents need to take a proactive stance and help delete cyberbullying from our browsing history.