Bullying in the digital age
Protect kids from the dangers of social media bullying
Cyberbullying is electronic bullying (via computer or cellphone, using emails, texting or social media) that can quickly spiral out of control in today’s digital society. With the multitude of social media platforms popular with teens today, bullies may gain anonymity through fake profiles and say or do things they would not otherwise.
A 2013 survey found that 15 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) had been electronically bullied in the last year.*
How do I help?
The natural reaction for most parents is to want to protect their child from cyberbullying. Experts on the matter present different ways to help your child with cyberbullying:
• Help your child know what to share online.
Educating your children on what is appropriate to post online is an important step to prevent cyberbullying. They shouldn’t share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted online, it’s difficult (or impossible!) to delete and what happens to it next is out of their control.
• Be aware of what your child does online.
Ask to “friend” or “follow” your child on social media so that you can be informed on what he or she is posting and how he or she is interacting with others on the site.
• Understand school rules. Many schools have now developed policies on uses of technology in and out of the classroom. Understanding these policies can help you approach school administration if your child is cyberbullied.
• Create an open environment. Help your child feel comfortable telling you about cyberbullying incidents and set clear expectations for technology use. In past studies, some students indicated that they didn’t tell their parents about cyberbullying because they feared their parents would take the technology away.**
• Report the problem. If you believe your child is involved in cyberbullying or being bullied, talk to someone at your child’s school. Encourage your child to speak up about online bullying and report problems before they get out of hand. Report cyberbullying to Internet service providers and website moderators, and if threats and harassment occur, call the police.
Talking to a trusted friend, teacher, counselor or health care provider may create an opportunity for your child to share feelings in a safe place and can help prevent cyberbullying.
** The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine “The Internet is a Mask”: High School Students’ Suggestions for Preventing Cyberbullying, August 2014.