What is Cyberbullying?
Parents might remember old movies in which children walk home from school and are harassed by older bullies in the neighborhood. Although this form of bullying still exists, new forms of bullying have emerged that reflect a growing social experience online. Sadly, children and teens may be harassed through the many forms of technology, including:
- text messages
- instant messaging
- social media websites
- online forums
- chat rooms
- other digital technology
When someone uses one of the above to belittle, harass, threaten, humiliate, or make another person feel inadequate, it is known as cyberbullying.
Bullying is an active behavior and is done with intention to harm another, whether physically or emotionally. There are various forms of bullying, such as:
- Physical bullying
- Verbal bullying
- Cyber bullying
- Gay bullying
- Verbal bullying
- Text bullying
- Female bullying
In addition to those listed, there are other also other forms of aggression that can exist among individuals. However, unlike traditional bullying that tends to occur when a teen may be in a vulnerable place, such as being alone or without witnesses, cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere. If your teen has a phone, Ipad, or computer, they may be vulnerable to cyberbullying. This is why it is important for parents to take the appropriate steps to prevent cyberbullying. This article will inform parents on how to prevent cyberbullying in teens.
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
Most parents are aware of the issue of cyberbullying; however, many parents are probably unsure on how to prevent cyberbullying from happening to their teen.
To prevent cyberbullying, parents should take the following steps:
- Monitor online use – Monitor use of social media and other forms of online use
- Set limits on computer use – Unplug technology at certain hours of the day (such as early morning and in the evening)
- Keep the computer visible – Keep the computer in your home visible so that others are around when your teen is online
- Know your teen’s passwords – Know all of your teen’s passwords on social media sites, chat rooms, online forums, email, etc.
- Know what your teen is doing – Get to know who your teen is communicating with online
- Set filters – Set up filters on your teen’s Internet use
- Put limits on cell phone data use – Limit the amount of data your teen’s phone can use
- Teach your teen coping tools – To help manage stress and any emotional reactions that result from online activity
- Set boundaries – Clearly communicate what you expect from your teen and set boundaries on what is appropriate and not appropriate
- Be a positive example – Setting a positive example in the way that you treat others, including strangers
- Teach your teen empathy – And how to respect the feelings of others
- Prepare your teen – Encourage your teens to ignore, delete, and block any hurtful messages they receive.
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, parents might also teach their teen to do the following:
- Never post any personal information online
- Never pass along a cyberbullying message
- Don’t respond to any cyberbullying incidents
- Talk about what they’re doing online and the interactions they are having
- Never post anything that they don’t want to be public information, even if their friends are doing it.
- Avoid making posts or sending emails when upset or angry
- Have the same social etiquette online as they would in person
Keep in mind that bullying has been associated with poor mental health in teens. Although the above suggestions might seem invasive for some parents, these are measures that can not only help keep your teen safe from bullying but also from depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.
What Are the Signs of Cyberbullying?
In some ways, cyberbullying can be more harmful than traditional forms of bullying. For instance, cyberbullying can happen in such a way that it goes out to a wide number of people, making a teen feel exposed, embarrassed, and hurt. Also, cyberbullying can happen anytime, which can create feelings of fear for a teen no matter the time of day. Lastly, some forms of cyberbullying can happen anonymously, which means that a teen may not know who is targeting them.
Cyberbulling can create feelings of low self esteem, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, anger, fear, and more. In some cases, a bullied teen may feel as though they deserve the harsh treatment, that it’s their fault, or feel powerless.
Because of these feelings, a teen might exhibit the following signs:
- Worry or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Declining schoolwork
- Withdrawal from friends or social activities
- Physical complaints
- Depressed mood
- Refusal to attend school
- Avoidance of talk about online use
Parents who want to know how to prevent cyberbullying should also keep in mind that there are some factors that can make a teen more vulnerable to being bullied, and even more vulnerable to bullying.
Bullied Teens Can also Take Action
Though parents can learn how to prevent cyberbullying and implement those strategies to the best of their ability, cyberbullying may still occur. If your teen is being bullied online, at some point he or she might want to take action themselves.
Here are some tips on what teens can do to stop the bullying:
- Talk to an adult – Share as much as possible about the bullying with an adult you trust
- Develop a plan – Create a plan with an adult (parent, teacher, etc.) on how to put an end to the bullying or notify the right authorities to stop the bullying
- Report the cyberbullying – You should report cyberbullying to the website where it happened
- Find witnesses – Elicit the help of any online witnesses or those who have also been bullied by the same perpetrator
- Research local, state, and federal laws – Educate yourself on the laws that are there to facilitate a teen’s safety with regard to bullying
To help their teens with this, parents can also research local laws as well as talk to school officials about the bullying. Parents can also have open, honest, and authentic conversations about the bullying with their teen. Lastly, parents can be supportive by creating opportunities to talk about what’s going on and how the bullying is affecting their teen.
Teens are often willing to talk about matters that are important to them. For instance, a nonprofit located in England that advocates for the health and wellbeing of teens recently conducted a survey on the attitudes of female teens and young women. According to the survey, 58% of the female teens they surveyed (ages 13 to 21) believed mental health was a significant concern in their lives and 37% felt worried about cyber-bullying.
Get Professional Mental Health Support
These suggestions provided in this article on how to prevent cyberbullying can help a great deal with keeping your teen safe. However, as mentioned above, bullying can lead to:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Other mental health issues
If you find that your teen continues to struggle with the effects of cyberbullying, it’s important to get the right mental health support. A therapist, psychologist, or counseling can help a teen strengthen their self-esteem and boost their psychological health.
What steps to prevent cyberbullying have you taken? Let us know in the comments below.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.