Cyberbullying: How to Deal With an Escalating Trend

The solution to the problem of cyberbullying may be even more elusive than the solution to bullying in general. No parent wants his or her child to be subjected to torment, but the rapid adoption of smartphones, social networking and the necessity of an online presence for even adolescents make protecting children exceedingly difficult. In the face of such challenges, parents can only do their best to provide what protection and support they can.

Flickr Image by Trixor


A Serious Problem
Cyberbullying is disturbingly rampant among school-age children. According to DoSomething.org, almost 43% of kids have been bullied online. Out of those victims, a paltry one in ten will tell any authority figure about it. The practice is pervasive, and barely any of the victims are talking about it. Fortunately, parents are taking notice, and are learning how to tackle the problem the best they can with the resources available to them. Through education, awareness and open communication, it is possible to deal with cyberbullying when it happens.

Various Forms
Cyberbullying most often pops up on social networking site or through text messaging. Because of its anonymous nature, some people are prone to engage in it even if they would not “bully” in a face-to-face situation. There are those who fit the typical bully image, but according to Stop Cyberbullying, they can also consist of:

  • The Vengeful Angel – people who believes that they are righting wrongs. They may be angry at something the victim said or did, and take justice into their own hands.
  • The Tech Savvy, or “Nerd” – these bullies finally feel a sense of power, and with their tech skills, can abuse others who perhaps once abused them.
  • Mean Girls – bullying for entertainment, in a group setting.
  • The Inadvertent Cyberbully – these people usually do not think they are bullies. They may just be pretending to be tough online, or could be reacting without thinking of the consequences.

Signs
Because victims often do not feel comfortable talking to their parents about what is happening, it is important for parents to keep an eye out for potential signs. CNN lists things to keep in mind when it comes to cyberbullying, including:

  • Social withdrawal – they stop going online, playing games or using the phone, and sometimes friends no longer come around.
  • Fear of technology – they act nervous when text messages arrive, and avoid logging on as they once did.
  • Bad behavior – sometimes kids will act out in frustration.
  • Ask around – if kids are acting weird, asking around to other trusted parents and teachers may yield clues as to why.
  • See for yourself – parents can use software to monitor their kids’ online use if all else fails.

Deal With Cyberbullying
Knowing how to deal with a cyberbullying can be extremely challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. An article by The New York Times discussing the problem pointed out that what works in one situation can backfire in another, and that it is important to tread carefully when addressing the problem.

Communication is the most important part, and parents need to keep lines open with their children to spot problems early on. Once cyberbullying is detected, it is important to record what is happening, and to then talk with the appropriate party, depending on the severity of the situation. For some situations, it may be enough to have a discussion with the parents of the bully. For others, such as in the case of identity theft, parents will need to contact the police.

Education is Key
Parents must educate themselves on the world their children are facing to be able to deal with whatever situation arises. Knowing the facts about protecting online information, social networking, smartphone use and cyberbullying in general will give parents the necessary tools to monitor and protect their children from these threats.

About the Author
Mackenzie is a self-proclaimed techno geek with a passion for coding. When she’s not out jogging with her little dog to stay fit, she enjoys reading about the latest technology news and innovations on sites like TechCrunch or Mashable. Follow her on Twitter @MacklinMor

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