According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics 7% of students in grades 6–12 have experienced cyberbullying.The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 15% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year. Research on cyberbullying is growing. However, because kids’ technology use changes rapidly, it is difficult to design surveys that accurately capture trends.
The effects of cyberbullying are extensive. Cell phones and computers themselves are not to blame for cyberbullying. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment. But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar.
Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Skip school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
Cyberbullying is often similar to traditional bullying, although there are some distinctions. Victims of cyberbullying may not know the identity of their bully, or why the bully is targeting them. The harassment can have wider-reaching effects on the victim than traditional bullying, as the content used to harass the victim can be spread and shared easily among many people, and often remains accessible for a long time after the initial incident. The victim is also sometimes exposed to the harassment whenever they use technology, as opposed to traditional harassment where the bully often must be in physical proximity to the target.
Often times cyberbullying is more difficult to combat compared to “traditional” bullying. Kids who are being cyber-bullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyber-bullied have a hard time getting away from the behavior. Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source. Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
It is important for parents to sit down with their children to discuss cyberbullying, its effects and what can be done as a victim. If you want to know how to stop being a victim and start enjoying your life again review the following steps:
- Don’t respond. If a cyberbully is approaching you and saying mean or nasty comments, going around impersonating you, or just generally trying to upset you online, it can be easy to want to fight back and to tell that person to go away and to start calling that person a few names yourself. But the truth of the matter is, the more you engage with the bully, the more he will think that he’s getting to you, and the more likely he’ll be to keep bothering you.
- Block the bully. Whether you’re on Facebook chat, g-chat, or another form of instant messaging, just make it so that the person is blocked from your account, so you cannot receive any messages from that person. You may also appear invisible to that person, depending on which programs you are using. Once you block the bully from talking to you, he or she is likely to give up on trying to reach out to you.
- Save the evidence. If the bully sends you hurtful chats, posts, or emails, don’t delete the evidence. Save it in case you decide to contact your service provider or to talk to an adult or an administrator of your school. Having a written record of the bully’s behavior will give you the proof you need to get the bully in trouble. Save it somewhere, print it out, and make sure the evidence is on hand when you need it. If you don’t save any evidence, then it’ll be your word against the bully’s, and the bully is likely to deny having any online contact with you.
- Create more private settings. If you want to make it less likely that you’ll be bullied in the first place, you can also create higher privacy settings, whether you’re using your Facebook, Twitter, or another online account. Limiting the access that people have to your photos and the things you post can help you avoid people who are just trolling your profile in order to find something to laugh or be mean about.
- Think about what you post. Of course, it is never your fault if you are being bullied or cyberbullied. Still, you can think about which comments you post, and who is able to view them. If you post something very controversial or likely to offend a lot of people, then you may be opening yourself up to having people bully you about what you’re saying. Though most bullying does not happen because of posted comments, if you want to be more safe than sorry, then you should avoid posting anything that is likely to anger a lot of people.
- Report the person to service providers. If a person is being offensive, vulgar, or just plain annoying to you online, then you can contact the service providers to get that person banned from the service. If you contact Facebook and report bullying, then the person will face the embarrassment of being booted from his or her Facebook account and will have to explain why. Reporting the person can show that you mean business and is likely to make him or her back off.
- Report the person to adults. If the cyberbullying is getting out of hand and the person is regularly bothering you with hurtful, mean, spiteful, and angry comments, then you can’t keep ignoring it. If you feel like you’ve tried everything or that you can’t face this alone, then it’s time to talk to an adult or an authority figure at your school about the incident to stop the situation from happening.
Parents, school staff and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. It is our responsibility as adults to help kids understand bullying. Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.