New technologies, such as cell phones, social networking sites, and instant messaging have been embraced by pre teens, teens, and young adults at a rapid pace. These technologies can be used for good use such as staying in contact with friends and family, as well as providing entertainment and news. However, some technological devices have been used in the means of cyber bullying- a newer phenomenon, impacting the well-being of individuals, educational institution, family and peer relationships of many young individuals. Cyberbullying is defined as an “aggressive intentional act carried out using electronic forms of contact. he interaction by logging off or turning off the mode of communication” (Freis & Gurung). Cyberbullying represents communications that seeks to intimidate, control, manipulate, or humiliate an individual. The actions are deliberate, repeated, and hostile which are intended to harm another individual.
Bullying vs. Cyberbullying:
Unlike physical bullying, electronic bullies can remain virtually anonymous using temporary email accounts, pseudonyms in chat rooms, instant messaging, cell-phone text messaging, and other internet sites to disguise their identity. However, cyberbullying is unique considering communication through technology can be received at any time, yet victims may block or terminate the communication. In addition, when children and teenagers know more about computers and technology than their parents or families, they are therefore able to operate the technologies without any concern that a parent will discover their experience with bullying.
These days, in every age and grade many children and adolescents experience bullying. The rates vary depending on the type of bullying, as well as gender. Involvement in bullying and victimization tends to decrease with age. Researchers across several countries have investigated age trends in bullying and victimization and have come to similar conclusions.
Effects and Warning Signs:
Like all forms of bullying and harassment, cyberbullying can cause psychological, emotional, and physical stress. Individuals affected by cyberbullying have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Some symptoms may include increased feelings of sadness, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in usual activities, and an increased feeling of loneliness. Also, individuals who are suffering from cyberbullying may struggle emotionally, and physically; which may cause more struggle personally, at home, and at school.
All forms of bullying can have a harmful effect on an individual’s mental and physical health. Victims of cyberbullying can experience isolation and loneliness, which can lead to emotional and physical harm, loss of self esteem, shame, anxiety, depression, and ultimately suicide. Parents, guardians, and friends may not notice that their family member or friend is being cyberbullyed. The prime way to prevent your child from being a victim is to keep the lines of communication open and be aware of the warning signs. Warning signs may consist of: using alcohol or drugs to deal with emotions, miss or drop out of school to avoid the perpetrator, change in grades, develop fear of technology, signs of depression or anxiety, display lower self-esteem, suffer from headaches and stomach aches, or trouble sleeping. This bullying can also lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts. It is essential to note that every child is different and any child can have an off day; so it is best to look at a pattern of behavior that is not typical for an individual. Also, these signs could indicate other problems, but any of these symptoms demand looking into further.
Advice for Parents:
- Keep the computer in a common area of the home. Monitor their online usage.
- Learn how various social networking websites work. Become familiar with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Ask your children if they will show you their profile pages.
- Talk regularly and specifically with your children about online issues. Let them know they can come to you for help if anything is inappropriate, upsetting, or dangerous.
- Build trust with your children. Set time limits, explain your reasons for them, and discuss rules for online safety and Internet use.
- Tell your children not to respond to any cyberbullying threats or comments online. However, do not delete any of the messages. Instead, print out all the messages, including the e-mail addresses or online screen names of the cyberbully. You will need the messages to verify and prove there is cyberbullying.
- Don’t overreact by blaming your children. If they are being bullied, be supportive and understanding. Let your children know they are not to blame for being bullied.
- Don’t underreact by telling your children to “shrug it off” or just deal with the bullying. The emotional pain of being bullied is very real and can have long-lasting effects. Don’t tease them about it or respond with a “kids will be kids” attitude.
- Don’t threaten to take away your children’s computers if they come to you with a problem. This only forces kids to be more secretive.
- Talk to your school’s guidance counselors so they can keep an eye out for bullying during the school day.
- If there are threats of physical violence or the bullying continues to escalate, get law enforcement involved.
If you think your child may be bullied or suspect they are the bully, please call us to schedule an appointment with a qualified counselor at 303-353-9226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.