You may very well remember bullies from the playgrounds–they would use unwarranted verbal and/or physical attacks on other students. But these days, there’s a new kind of bullying–cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the “new bullying.” Since this generation of children are much more in-tuned with technology when it comes to communicating, it makes perfect sense that bullies would utilize technological devices such as computers and cell phones to threaten other teenagers and children. Just like the classic form of bullying, cyberbullying is intended to hurt, target, or harass another person, just through the means of instant messages, cell phone text messages, emails, social media posts, or any of the other technological means of communication.
The problem continues to grow as children and teens are using technology as their main form of communication. In fact, according to a research by the Cyberbullying Research Center in 2010, 1 out of 5 children and teens have been victimized by cyberbullying. As technology continues to become more accessible for the younger generation, it doesn’t take much to figure out that this form of bullying will continue to become a problem for children and teenagers.
But how do you know if your child is a victim of cyberbullying?
* If your child has always been interested in using the computer for games, research, and socialization, and suddenly shows a lack of interest in using the computer or unexpectedly stops utilizing it altogether, this is a red flag that something has occurred.
* Watch for signs of your child becoming angry or withdrawn after using the computer.
* Pay attention to the reaction of your child when an incoming instant message or email comes in. If they appear uncomfortable or nervous when this occurs, they may be expecting a message from someone who is cyberbullying them.
* Ask your child often what they are doing on the computer. You should already be consistently aware of their computer habits, anyway, but if you haven’t been, now is the time to start. If they avoid talking to you about what they are doing, or you find them constantly closing screens and programs when you walk by or approach, they may be hiding something from you.
* Be aware of how your child acts when getting ready to go to school. If they seem very nervous or uneasy about going to school every day, they may be a victim of cyberbullying. This avoidance of school, events, and other activities that your child used to find enjoyable could be a sign that something is going on.
* Check with teachers if there are issues concerning your child’s grades or behavior at home or school. Anger and outbursts can stem from the frustration they may feel and their need to protect themselves.
There can be long-term effects of cyberbullying, both for the bully themselves and for the victim. The victim could develop low self-esteem, high anxiety, and depression. In most severe cases, such as the student who was being harassed about coming out as a homosexual, some teenagers will turn to suicide as a “way out” from the constant harassment. The bully may have a lifetime of self-esteem issues and could take their cyberbullying to another level as an adult–to cyber-stalking or cyber-harassment. These actions, as adults, are illegal crimes and can result in jail time or fines.