Kayla logged off her computer at 4 o’clock to head to softball practice. When she logged on again at 8 o’clock that evening, she found over a dozen messages on her Facebook wall, some of them from people she didn’t even known. The messages, which included various comments about her appearance and slurs, were completely out of the blue. She didn’t know what started it, or why they were there. But it was only the beginning of a vicious campaign that lasted for several months, and that gained many more attackers.
It’s not an uncommon situation in the digital world that we live in and, unfortunately, many parents don’t realize just how harmful these kinds of attacks can be on their children. Understanding the effects of cyberbullying and just how harmful it can be is any parent’s first step towards ensuring that their children are protected, safe, and that they get the help they need if they are being bullied online. One great place for a parent to start when their child is dealing with any kind of problem is this stress management course for kids and teens. However, parents can only deal with these effects if they understand what they are, and just how detrimental cyberbullying can be to their child’s wellbeing.
What is Cyberbullying?
The aforementioned example is just one type of cyberbullying that can occur. Unfortunately, with the many new types of technology that have been developed and the numerous social media platforms that have been created, there are more ways than ever for cyberbullies to target their victims.
Cyberbullying can take place between an individual and people that they know from school, from an extracurricular activity outside of school, or even between individuals and anonymous strangers that they have met online. These attacks may occur because of a personal disagreement, they may occur as the result of bigotry (including racism, homophobia, and transphobia), or they may even occur simply because the attacker is trying to get a rise out of the person that they are cyberbullying, (an act which is often known online as “trolling”)
Some of the ways in which cyberbulling can occur include:
- The posting of abusive public comments on a website such as Facebook
- Attacks sent via private message services
- The posting or messaging of videos or links meant to upset an individual
- The public posting or sharing of personal information, videos, or photographs meant to embarrass or upset an individual
Why is Cyberbullying So Dangerous?
It can be difficult for adults to understand why cyberbullying can be so dangerous, especially if they did not grow up in the digital age. While the Internet is a convenient platform for communicating for most adults, it is a very real component of the social life of modern day children, teenagers, and young adults. When cyberbullying occurs, it is as “real” to these younger individuals as if it were occurring at school, at their favorite club, or in any other location where they socialize regularly. And as a result, the effects of cyberbullying are much the same as if teens were experiencing severe bullying of any other kind.
One of the things that make cyberbullying especially problematic is that because of the digital world we live in, there is virtually no escape when cyberbullying occurs. While schoolyard bullying ends the instant a young person heads home for the day, cyberbullying can be a 24/7 concern. This is why it is important for adults to take cyberbullying seriously and to help their children, siblings, or other young individuals in their life end the problem before it becomes a serious issue.
Identifying the Effects of Cyberbullying
Many things occur when an individual is being bullied online. It is important to remember that every individual will respond differently, depending on their own particular personality and the intensity of the cyberbullying that they are experiencing.
- Compulsive Computer Use: While it may seem contrary to what you think, one of the first things that may occur when a young person is being cyberbullied is a compulsive need to be online or on their smartphone. This occurs when they feel the need to constantly monitor their online profiles or social media accounts for potential messages or attacks.
- Concealing Online Activity: Young people often want to hide the fact that cyberbullying is occurring, especially if personal issues such as their sexuality are being targeted in the attacks. If a young person is usually open about their activity but suddenly feels the need to hide what they are doing online, even to the point of blocking you from their social media or making their social media accounts private, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed.
- Anxiety and Depression: There are many different reasons that a child may suddenly begin to exhibit signs of anxiety and depression, cyberbullying being one of them. It can be especially problematic for those younger individuals who use their online accounts as a “safe place” to discuss their problems with like-minded individuals, and who suddenly feel like this safe place has been taken away from them. If a young person is experiencing depression, consider learning about strategies to fight depression to help them through this rough time.
- Withdrawal from Social Activities: Unfortunately, cyberbullying can escalate into the real world. Younger individuals who are being cyberbullied may withdraw from activities that they once used to enjoy, such as sports or clubs outside of school. When the cyberbullying is taking place among individuals from their school, they may also begin to skip classes or attempt to make excuses to stay home from school in order to avoid the individuals at the root of the issue.
What Can You Do to Stop Cyberbullying?
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to stop cyberbullying. If you believe that cyberbullying may be occurring with your child, or any other younger individual that you are close to, the first thing that you should do is invite them to discuss these and any other issues with you in an open and honest manner.
Young people must be reassured that you will not be angry with them and that you will not blame them if they are being cyberbullied, even if they perceive that they have done something to cause the attacks. Help them realize that though they have access to the Internet, their home is still a safe place where they will be free from judgment.
Many younger people may simply not understand the steps that they can take to ensure their privacy online. It can be a good idea to enroll in a cyber security course that will teach you how to protect yourself while browsing the Internet, how to remain private, and how to choose the information that you will share online.
If the individuals involved are other students from the young person’s school, then the first step to combating the issue and making it stop may be to contact school officials who can help mediate the problem. While these issues may fall out of the school’s jurisdiction, most principals and counselors are more than happy to resolve them before the bullying begins taking place on campus.
Just remember – cyberbullying is very much a real concern, and it can have very real effects on young people. Work on developing your own parenting skills, something you can learn right here on Udemy, and devise the best way to resolve these problematic situations. And as complex as these situations may be, always help the young people in your life to understand that even the worst cyberbullying is only temporary, and that there will always be a way to stop it – even if that just means shutting off the computer.