Cyberbullying is a term used to describe a variety of threatening and harassing online behaviors via the internet or cell phone such as lying about, stalking or generally bullying another person. It can include:
- Sending harassing messages
- Posting false information
- Posting private or manipulated pictures
- Encouraging others to bully someone
- Impersonate them online
- Post their personal information
- Pretend to be them and bully another individual
With nearly half of all tweens and teens experiencing cyberbullying, it is essential for cyberbullying victims to learn to effectively deal with cyberbullies. With these simple but thoughtful steps, tweens, teens and parents can respond effectively to cyberbullies:
- If a tween or teen is bullied or harassed online, they should not respond. Instead, they should immediately find a safe adult and report the online threat or harassment.
- Cyberbullying victims should also block the bully and/or unfriend them so they cannot continue the harassment.
- Parents should print all correspondence and go to their local law enforcement agency for help.
- If the harassment or bullying continues or is coming from multiple sources, it may be necessary to close the victim’s email or Facebook accounts and open new ones, allowing access only to a small, select group of safe friends.
- Because cyberbullying has had serious consequences for other children and teens, the emotional damage suffered by victims must be taken seriously. Parents must watch for signs of withdrawal, depression and isolation, and seek professional counseling and support for any child or teen that needs or desires it.
What is more important as a society is learning to prevent cyberbullying before it ever happens. No one is to blame if they do become a victim, however there are key steps tweens, teens and parents can take to decrease the risk of being harassed or bullied online:
Limit online information and availability. For instance limit your email, social network, newsgroup and blog accounts. If you are unsure of how many accounts you have and where your information is located on the web, conduct a Google search of yourself; the results may surprise you. Eliminate all but essential information and pictures about yourself on the web. Contact your Internet Service Provider if you can’t delete unwanted information yourself.
Don’t provide ammunition. Avoid doing things like sending compromising photos of yourself or allowing access to photos or account passwords or other personal information to anyone, friend or not. Their friend status can change in a hurry and you never know what another person (or their friends) might do.
Be alert to anyone taking your photo in private situations. Photos taken in private places such as locker rooms or bathrooms can always be manipulated or posted online, and are probably not going to be used for anything good. If anyone ever takes a photo in that kind of environment, ask him or her to delete it and ask to see their photo library. If they won’t show you, ask an adult to intervene and report their behavior as harassment and a violation of your privacy.
Practice good “netiquette.” Take a moment before responding to posts either in anger or in a disrespectful way yourself, learn how to use social media sites, such as Facebook, responsibly, and always remember to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
No one can ever eliminate the possibility that they will become a victim of a cyberbully, however taking simple, practical steps such as these, and being alert online, can help decrease the risk. Let us know if you have any other cyberbullying prevention tips to share.