We need to take cyberbullying seriously to protect our children

Published 4:37 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

By: David Cutchin

Everyone, at some point, has been affected by bullying. You have been the victim of bullying, or have had knowledge of someone being bullied, or you were the bully. Times have changed and bullying has taken a whole new face. It is no longer localized to school playgrounds. 

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying occurs through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Cyberbullying is unlawful, and people who engage in such activity, can face criminal action.

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Children are likely victimized more often than adults, and usually do not report it due to the fear of retribution from peers, or embarrassment. With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future.

Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be persistent, permanent, and hard for adults to notice. Victims can suffer severe and permanent psychological damage, and can become a person who might him/herself be a danger to others later in life.

It is absolutely imperative that we– parents, teachers, and public safety professionals– take cyberbullying seriously and continuously be on the lookout for its signs and symptoms. Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief. Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas in later life. Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize. Look for changes in your child’s media habits.

Are they using web media more than usual, or have they lost interest in using their device all together?

Are they hiding to use the device, or has their demeanor changed?

Are they suddenly sad, or have they suddenly started acting out and becoming disruptive?

Children are not likely to tell parents about cyberbullying unless they are questioned, so parents need to start talking to their children about what’s going on it their daily lives. If you discover that your child is the victim of cyberbullying; Please do not respond to the offender yourself, especially if the offender is also a child. It’s best to contact the police, or school resource officer and go through the proper channels.

If you want to learn more about Cyberbullying, please visit: Stopbullying.gov.