Cyberbullying and Mental Health
Cyberbullying can take place anywhere. Children are bullied over digital devices like phones, tablets, and computers. The invasive nature of cyberbullying includes the ability to bully through SMS, text, apps, social media, forums, or video games. Children can bully other children anyplace where media or texts can be viewed, shared, or accessed through the web.
Children who participate in cyberbullying send, text, post, or share negative posts about the child being cyberbullied. Those messages can include harmful, mean, or false information. Those who cyberbully will share personal or private information in the hopes the person whose information is being shared will feel humiliated or ashamed. In many cases of cyberbullying, the actions of the bully will cross the line into illegal behavior.
Common Places Where Cyberbullying Occurs
Stopbullying.gov lists places that are often used to cyberbully.
Online gaming communities
Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or Snapchat
Text messaging and messaging on apps like Whatsapp
Private messaging, instant messaging and online messaging over the internet
Any app, social media, or videogame chat room can be a form of torture for the child being bullied. Parents should pay attention to the apps, online sites, and instant message forums that their child uses.
Social media and other online forums are areas to be concerned about. Anything shared on sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others are permanently saved. Anyone can access the photos, words, or actions because the internet is a public forum. The internet is a virtual memory book that can be used against a person-years in the future. Any comment, whether it is mean, hurtful, or false, will exist for everyone to see.
Cyberbullies create a public record that will harm the child and a history that reflects on their own reputation. They are hurting personal reputations: theirs and the child who is being bullied. Years after they finish bullying, their activities can be viewed by potential schools or places of employment. The effects of cyberbullying are far-reaching.
Cyberbullying can go unnoticed because it takes place through cell phones, tablets, or computers. Teachers and parents will find cyberbullying hard to notice because they cannot see the bullying take place.
Cyberbullies are not limited to one person. In many cases, the cyberbully includes their friends in bullying activities. Additional bullies mean the child being bullied can face widespread harassment from a group of children both at home and school.
How Often Does Cyberbullying Occur?
Comparitech.com performed a research study investigating how often cyberbullying occurs around the world. They discovered:
- 47.7% of parents with children ages 6-10 reported their children were bullied
- 56.4% of parents with children ages 11-13 reported their children were bullied
- 59.9% of parents with children ages 14-18 reported their children were bullied
- 54.3% of parents with children ages 19 and older reported their children were bullied
· One-fifth of all bullying occurs through social media
· Although the vast majority of parents reported the bullying occurring in school, 19.2% stated that bullying occurred through social media sites and apps. A further 11% indicated bullying occurred through text messages, while 7.9% identified video games as a source. Meanwhile, 6.8% reported bullying occurred on non-social media websites, while 3.3% indicated the bullying occurred through email.
A 2018 Pew Research study found the most common types of cyberbullying are:
- Offensive name-calling (42%)
- Spreading of false rumors (32%)
- Receiving explicit images, they didn't ask for (25%)
- Constant asking of who they are, what they're doing, and who they're with by someone other than a parent (21%)
- Physical threats (16%)
- Having explicit images shared without their consent (7%)
How Can Parents Help Their Children?
The urge to protect your child or children is reasonable; however, it may not be in your child's best interest to intervene. Talk over the instances of cyberbullying and discuss how your child would like to handle the situation.
There are ways to help your child with minimal interference.
· Talk to your child about cyberbullying – find out how severe the bullying is and how frequently it occurs.
· Be there for them when or if they need to talk. Providing an emotional support system reassures your child they are loved and supported.
· Teach your child how to remove themselves from the bullying by walking away from their cell phone, tablet, or computer. Taking a break from their device will help them step away from their stressor. Ways to do this are:
o Don't retaliate; block the bully
o Save the bully's messages for future proof
o Talk to a friend
Parents, if your child can identify the bully, try to contact the bully's parents. If you can talk to the bully's parents, be patient and not emotional.
One you talk to your child, and they agree to talk to school personnel, go ahead and contact the school.
A benefit waiting to intervene is the chance your child will have to rally support from their friends. Bullies like to isolate their victims once they realize their victim has support from others; they tend to leave the child alone.
Intervening to protect your child is encouraged if the bullying is significant enough. Major instances include any threat of bodily harm to your child. If this is the case, contact your local authorities as soon as possible.
You can also report cases of bullying to Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. These sites take cyberbullying seriously and will aid you in stopping the bullies. If the bullying occurs through text messages, save the number and report the amount to your cell phone carrier.
Your child can also talk to a therapist about bullying. Talking with an outsider can help your child express their feelings without shame or embarrassment.
Cyberbullying is increasing in frequency because technology is making it easy to contact people. The cyberbully doesn't have to be face to face with their victim to harm. The dehumanization of the victim can make it easier to be cruel or inflict long-term damage to your child. Another aspect of cyberbullying is the ability to involve a group of people in bullying your child. Cyberbullies can include several children who are victimizing your child. Your child can feel helpless when bullying starts because cyberbullying can go undetected. Once you notice your child is being bullied, talk with them to see how bad it is and what approach your child wants to take to end the bullying. Consulting a therapist is another option for you and your child. Achieve Medical Center is available 24/7 to answer your questions about cyberbullying and how therapy can help your child. For more information, call (858) 221-0344.