New Age Bullies
The days of bullying mainly taking place in the school cafeteria or at the playground are a thing of the past. Now, we are in the world of social media and that means bullying is happening in more platforms and in front of a much bigger audience. Teens spend hours daily on their cell phones and on social media. Cyberbullies are likely to be more verbally aggressive because they’re behind the shield of a computer screen, often making comments they wouldn’t say face to face. The victims have nowhere to hide in the cyber world and ultimately react with anxiety and humiliation. As social media continues to become more popular, it unfortunately leads to a larger platform for cyberbullying. In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, it was found that 16% of all high school students were electronically bullied within that year. Let’s go through a rundown of what exactly cyberbullying is, its impact and what we can do about it.
What is cyberbullying?
The use of electronic technology including social networks, e-mail, text messaging or instant messaging with an intent to hurt or embarrass another person.
The cyberbully can be a complete stranger or a known person.
Is cyberbullying worse than physical bullying?
The answer is yes, it can be. This is because it can take place anytime, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The victims are often alone when it occurs.
It can be anonymous, meaning aggressors don’t always identify themselves.
Words written on the internet are written in “permanent ink”. The messages (even if they’re later deleted) can be forwarded to others and copied.
What happens to victims of cyberbullying?
There can be a significant psychological impact on teens including:
Depression (lowered self-esteem, sadness and suicidal thoughts)
Increased risks of alcohol and drug use
Social isolation (some teens may not want to attend school if the cyberbully is a classmate)
How can we prevent cyberbullying?
Tell them to be mindful of what they post online and not to show pictures that may later embarrass them. Pictures posted on the internet should be considered public property as you don’t always know who is viewing them.
Advise them to never share passwords with friends.
Open the communication line with your children. Encourage them to tell you immediately if they are being targeted. Many teens fear their parents will take away their cell phones or computers if they say anything so reassure them that they will not be punished for reporting it.
Always warn them not to retaliate as this often makes the situation worse.
The rule is if you can see it, then report it. You can report it to the website moderators and online service providers. If there is a threat of violence, then reporting it to law enforcement is the next step. Also, many schools have anti-bullying policies so reporting it to school officials will likely lead to them taking action.
We live in a rapidly developing electronic age and technology is making new advances by the minute. Similar to a new medication on the market, there are some great advanced benefits but not without some risks. Cyberbullying is a risk that we can’t take lightly. Keeping these tips in mind can provide the virtual armor that our teens need to decrease their risk of becoming a target.
About the Author
Dion Short Metzger, M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist who emphasizes the importance of the recognition of psychiatric disorders among patients and their families. She has a passion for assisting those who suffer from mental illness while trying to dispel the stigma attached to such labels. She believes that education is the most powerful tool at her disposal to make that possible.
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