As more children and teens use technology, cyberbullying becomes more of an urgent issue. Children believe they are safe behind a screen. Often, the anonymity of social media platforms makes them think they can say or post whatever they wish without any consequences. As the number of social media platforms grows, bullies have more and more opportunities to terrorize their victims. Unfortunately, these incidents are not always reported. In fact, DoSomething.org reports that only 1 in 10 children who experience cyberbullying will report it to their parent or an adult. With so much at stake, it is important that parents and educators are aware of the many places online where cyberbullying can occur.
E-mail. You may think e-mail is mostly used in offices. On the contrary, e-mail is incredibly popular amongst children and teens. The Pew Research Center reports that 64% of teens use email to communicate with friends. E-mail is a tool to connect with friends, but it’s also a dangerous tool in the hands of bullies. With a single click, bullies can also send private information to large groups at once. This information, which can include inappropriate images and revenge porn, can be easily shared. Sometimes, teens will share passwords, allowing them to spread damaging information through drafts. While content filters miss this kind of bullying, schools can protect students through the use of computer word and phrase monitoring.
Texting. Students are known to keep their phones close. This makes it difficult to access their messages. Most students either have their own cell phones or devices that can receive texts. With the ability to send and receive texts at all times, targets cannot escape the cruelty of their bullies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Some computers provide the ability to access text messaging services. This means that teens can send and receive harmful messages even when doing school work.
Instant Messaging. Most teens today opt for texting. However, instant messaging sites and apps are still a popular choice– especially when it comes to cyberbullying. In fact, instant messaging can be even more dangerous for teens. Many believe these messages are anonymous or cannot be traced. Therefore, these platforms easily become a means to harass their victims.
Social Media. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 71% of teens have profiles on multiple social media sites. Bullies can instantly post embarrassing or personal photos, send direct messages, create harassing group chats or post humiliating statuses directed toward their targets. These platforms often have privacy settings that may cause a bully to believe they can hide their actions from parents, teachers and other adults. Therefore, it is even more important to monitor their social media accounts. They may not be aware of the signs of cyberbullying, or they may be engaging in the harmful behaviors themselves.
Cyberbullying occurs more commonly than parents and educators realize. Students often attempt to deal with the situations themselves, or ignore their bully. This may work in some circumstances. However, the toll that cyberbullying takes on mental health can be devastating. Take precautions such as educating students on the permanence and public nature of the internet. It is important they understand that everything you post can be found, and it can never be fully taken off the web. However, with guidance from parents and trusted adults, teens can learn safe digital habits that they can take with them throughout life.
Text by Laura Jane Crocker