Our experts' guide to identifying and managing cyberbullying.
ySafe Digital Parenting - Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is repeated cruel behavior used to intimidate, embarrass, and harass online. It can be anything from name-calling to uploading embarrassing photos, passing information or photos of you or your family, or interfering with your content in any way online without your consent.
The impact of online bullying is serious - and can be life-threatening, and the rise of suicide rates among youth is a tragic reminder. Addressing it directly and frequently within our homes is absolutely vital for the wellbeing of our kids. It’s not always easy, but that should never deter you from trying.
Cyberbullying behaviors seem to correlate with first access to social media and games. Negative online behaviors such as cyberbullying seem to increase at around 10 years old and decrease frequency and intensity at around 16 years old.
13 and 14 year olds appear to be most vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is not just limited to mean comments directed from one person to another. Cyberbullying can also include online activities such as impersonating (setting up an account a pretending to be someone else), excessive banter (which is common for young people playing games on headsets), screenshotting (sharing someone's texts without permission), or even polling (putting up a vote for others to do, for example, "Who's the ugliest girl at our school?"). Exclusion from online chats is also very common.
Cyberbullying can occur on any platform, including social media, gaming platforms, and general internet websites. As parents, we need to be vigilant and prepared for when things go wrong for our kids.
Here are our three top insights direct from ySafe's leading cyber safety experts.
Kids are actually unlikely to tell their parents if they are being cyberbullied because they fear that your response will be to stop them from using technology or that particular platform.
Red flags include changes in behavior, disruptions in sleep, agitation or withdrawal. Kids often become fixated more on their devices too, as they want to stay informed about whether anyone is making it worse, or whether anyone is sticking up for them.
It seems simple, but because most young people fear that you're going to take their technology away or overreact, you need to make it clear to your children that you won't take these actions if they talk to you and that you'll help them work through it instead.
If your child is being cyberbullied, here are the steps we recommend you take:
Taking a screenshot of the cyberbullying content is important 'evidence' to use when reporting to the platform, or to take to the school. In extreme cases, this information may also be taken to your local police.
We know there is a direct correlation between how long a cyberbullying post is up online and how much distress a child will feel due to increased exposure. It's essential that the content is removed to decrease the chance of the content being shared further. To have cyberbullying content removed, you can report it directly to the platform, or you can find a list of resources here for more help from StopBullying.gov.
Many kids don't tell their parents about cyberbullying because they fear that their parents will try and 'fix it'. Help them by asking what they would like you to do to help them. This is a great opportunity for you to problem-solve the solution with them, by offering them options and sharing in a conversation about the best course of action to take. This will help kids feel empowered and make you feel like you're solving the issues 'with' them, and not 'for' them.
To stop the cyberbullying from happening again, it is a good idea to block the cyberbully from accessing your child's profile. Sit with your child and work through together how to do this. All social media and gaming platforms have options to block other users. In some instances, your child might not want to block that person, sometimes for social reasons. Refer to Step 3 and help with problem-solving other solutions.
If the issue cannot be resolved by the steps above, or you feel that the situation needs to be escalated, it's a good idea to speak with a staff member at the school to seek their advice. The school is a great resource of information and support. We do not recommend speaking to the parent of the potential-cyberbully without consulting the school first.
How to report online safety issues.
With a teenager’s social life becoming more and more immersed in the digital world, online conflict between peers is bound to happen.
Setting up social media accounts for the purpose of maliciously impersonating another is not a new concept.