16 Mar How to combat cyberbullying
Are you struggling with how to stop cyberbullying?
As virtually anyone who has experienced adolescence will know, bullying is often accepted as part of growing up. Whilst many of us know how it feels to be on the wrong side of teasing and taunting, today’s kids and teenagers are growing up in a world where a new kind of bullying has appeared – known as cyberbullying.
No longer content with simply hurling a few insults at their peers, bullies have started to take to their digital devices to upset and belittle their victims.
Cyberbullying is more widespread than ever
Although you or your kids may not have experienced cyberbullying directly, you are likely to know someone who has.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Centre, 36.5% of US teenagers aged between 12 and 17 believe that they have been cyberbullied in the past. What’s more, 17.4% reported that they had experienced it at some point in the last 30 days.
Comparing these figures to those collected in 2007, researchers have discovered that cyberbullying has more than doubled over the past 12 years. This is a worrying upward trajectory and demonstrates that more needs to be done to help young people in need.
How cyberbullying can impact kids
Before looking at how to stop cyberbullying, it is important to emphasise how harmful it can be for victims.
Indeed, the psychological pain that comes with being taunted online can be long-lasting, potentially even causing serious mental health disorders.
For anyone in doubt about how detrimental cyberbullying can be, recent findings from a study from Ditch the Label may be able to shed some light on the issue.
Of the kids surveyed who had experienced cyberbullying:
- 41% developed issues surrounding social anxiety
- 37% became depressed
- 26% felt suicidal thoughts
- 26% deleted their social media accounts
- 25% self-harmed
- 14% developed an eating disorder
- 9% began abusing drugs and /or alcohol
As anyone with any first-hand experience of these problems will know, they can seriously impact a young person’s personal, social and physical development, and can even endanger their life.
What’s more, it can cause problems for a number of people beyond the person being bullied.
How to stop cyberbullying
Dealing with cyberbullying is not an easy task.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, 95% of teenagers are connected to the internet and 85% use social media. This means that young people as a group are particularly vulnerable to online bullying.
One of the first things teenagers and adults can do to look after those around them is to learn to recognise the signs of bullying, particularly considering the fact that victims are often too ashamed to come forward about the situation.
A person who is being bullied may start to display marked behavioural changes such as:
- Skipping school
- Diminished performance in studies
- Becoming withdrawn and unwilling to spend time with friends
- Acting aggressively towards peers
- Being more moody, anxious or stressed than usual
- Threatening suicide
- Avoiding devices with an internet connection
It is also, of course, helpful to look out for signs that a person is engaging in cyberbullying. This may include:
- Looking nervous or guarded whilst online
- Being secretive about their online activities
- Becoming particularly angry or upset when their devices are taken away
- Shutting down laptops or phones as soon as someone approaches them
- Spending lots of time on the internet
If you are aware of cyberbullying incidents or simply have your suspicions, there are actions that can be taken.
If you are an adult trying to help a young person experiencing cyberbullying, try some of the following:
- Gently ask them about the people with whom they communicate
- Talk to them about cyberbullying, detailing the facts and reminding them that they are not alone
- Emphasise that they will not lose any internet privileges if they are being cyberbullied
- Talk to the child’s friends and giving them guidance about how they can help
- Raise the problem with teachers and school staff who can address the issue
- Encourage them to keep documentary evidence of the bullying so that action can be taken by school authorities
Ultimately, whilst cyberbullying can be complex, it can still be tackled. This is something that young people and adults alike should always remember.
Click here to learn more about the realities and implications of cyberbullying or have a read about our Junior Leader Program to see if it may be helpful to your situation, especially for children addicted to technology.