How to Deal with Online Bullying

In today’s world of technology, bullying has gone far beyond the standard face-to-face tactics, and morphed into far more sinister possibilities with long-lasting side effects.

Often called ‘cyberbullying,’ we will take a deeper look into the causes and effects of online harassment and the ways you can help to prevent it and react in helpful ways as a parent.

What is Cyberbullying?

The most basic definition of cyberbullying is when someone uses technology in order to harass, threaten, humiliate, torment or embarrass another individual. This can be done through social media apps, blogs, websites, texts, emails and more.

Girls most often demonstrate cyberbully by aiding in the spread of rumours and lies, exposing secrets, and alienating their targets through exclusion tactics. Boys, on the other hand, often cyberbully by threatening to physically hurt another person or encouraging the exchange of sexual messages and photos.

Repercussions of Cyberbullying

Because cyberbullying can be done anytime and anywhere, information is more likely to be spread quickly, and even more problematically, anonymously. Because it is difficult to remove once it has occurred, your teen may feel trapped or as though it is impossible to escape the abuse or embarrassment.

Cyberbullying victims commonly feel angry, hurt, afraid, helpless and isolated, and also tend to blame themselves even when they are not at fault. Beyond causing emotional damage, cyberbullying causes a decrease in self-esteem and an increase in the likelihood of PTSD, anxiety and depression. If your child suddenly asks to stay home from school or is caught skipping class, ask them – and yourself – if cyberbullying could be a possible cause.

Cyberbullying Statistics & Resources

Stop Bullying recently published a report stating that 9% of students in grades 6-12 experience cyberbullying, while 15% of high school students and 55.2% of LGBTQ students experience cyberbullying.

If you think your teen is a victim, 1800-551-800 Kids Helpline and 1800-184-527 QLife are excellent resources they may feel comfortable in speaking with.

Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying

While cyberbullying victims are never to blame, you can teach your teen several useful ways to prevent it from happening in the first place by following a few simple rules of thumb.

First, teens should never share their passwords with anyone except you. Bullies often pose as someone else and post embarrassing content on their behalf, so using unique passwords for each account – such as social media sites and email – is a wise place to start. In addition, teens should never share any content they’re not comfortable with everyone finding out about, whether it be photos, personal information or even seemingly innocent content about their crush, a family member or a teacher.

Finally, be sure to set strict privacy settings on all online accounts to limit the opportunity for stolen information or online abuse from strangers, as well as acquaintances, and only give out screen names to a limited number of trusted friends and family members.

What to Do if Your Teen is Cyberbullied

The first thing teens should do if they are being cyberbullied is save everything as proof, or in the case of possible legal repercussions, as evidence. While it can be tempting to delete the abuse as soon as possible, having proof of the behaviour is an important step in stopping it.

Next, cyberbullies should be immediately blocked and reported on the app where harmful content is likely to be flagged and taken down by moderators. By reporting the harassing comments, profiles and photos, it may be enough for them to simply move on or give up. Do not respond or retaliate, as this will likely only make the situation worse.

Encourage victims to speak with a trusted adult, whether a parent, older sibling, school counsellor or teacher about the issue. Talking about abuse out loud is an important step in seeking help and reassurance from people your teen knows and trusts in real life.

Take a break from technology. While ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can be a difficult concept when you’re worried about your reputation both on and offline, taking a timeout from technology by deleting your social apps or temporarily deactivating your account can bring some much-needed perspective to the equation.

Focus on positive activities and techniques like exercise, meditation and deep breathing. Participate in plenty of fun activities in real life rather than dwell on what is happening online. Learning to manage stress and avoid self-blame is key in moving on from cyberbullying.

How to React to Cyberbullying

Rather than discipline your teen for an act that is largely out of their control, listen and avoid passing judgement. Work together to form a plan that works for both of you, whether that means seeking out a therapist to help with emotional stability or reporting the bully to authority members.

Responding dependably and rapidly can aid in reminding your teen that you are on their side.

In addition, encourage your teen not to participate in any cyberbullying behaviour, as well as help report it when it happens to others. By teaching them to support their peers with positivity and reach out to those in need, you can help them set an example and increase their sense of self-worth.

What to Do If Your Teen IS the Cyberbully

Bullies, whether on or offline, have a higher risk of abusing drugs and alcohol later in life, as well as vandalise property, get into fights and drop out of school. Bullies are twice as likely as their peers to have criminal convictions as adults, and four times more likely to be multiple offenders. Lastly, bullies are more likely to be abusive toward their spouses and children later in life.

If you think your teen may be participating in cyberbullying behaviours, educate them about the ramifications of doing so, including time in jail and removal from their current school. Teach them to manage their stress in more positive ways and set limits on their use of technology.

If your child may be experiencing either side of bulling, we encourage you to check out our Junior Leader Program, and sign up for our Parental Guidance Workshops for additional insight. Call us at +61 418-869-061 for more information.

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