For many parents, the word “bullying” conjures up images of tall boys with angry faces, knocking books from our hands and taking our lunch money. Maybe we remember the girls that promised to be our best friends, only to be found smooching our crushes behind the bleachers. These bullies were a nuisance, an unfortunate time in our life, we say. But it passed, and hey – it’s all a part of growing up, right?
Unfortunately, the bullies of our generation have been replaced with something far more sinister. Cyberbullying has taken the nation by storm as more and more adults are made privy to the torment their kids and teens endure online. It can take the form of cruel, harassing, and even threatening text messages and emails, rude comments on social media platforms, or hurtful rumors or photos shared without someone’s consent.
Thankfully, steps have been taken to bring this form of bullying to light in recent years; organizations have formed to fight cyberbullying, well-known comedian Louis C.K. discussed cyberbullying on national television, and lawmakers are beginning to include cyberbulling in their existing harassment laws. However, there is still much more that needs to be done.
The Dangers of Cyberbullying
In 2019, the Duke University presented a study Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association on the lasting effects of bullying. Their findings were harrowing: children who had been bullied were at a greater risk for depression, low self-esteem, and even suicide, and children who were bullies showed an increased risk for substance abuse and anxiety issues. These risks lasted into adulthood, indicating that bullying maybe isn’t just a part of growing up after all.
For instances of cyberbullying, things can be even worse. Children who are bullied online have no safe refuge from the abuse (the Internet is always available to them), which means that both bullies and victims have a hard time disconnecting from this harmful behavior. As a result, the psychological damage of cyberbullying can be incredibly painful, and very long lasting. Also, because cyberbullies often originate online, the bully might not necessarily be someone a child knows; this makes confrontation or intervention from a parent even more difficult.
So what can we do to make sure our children are safe? One shocking statistic reveals that as few as one in 10 children report cyberbullying to an adult. This means that there are many children enduring abuse alone, without anyone to comfort or help them through it. Watch for signs of emotional strife in your child, and make sure that they know what to do when they witness cyberbullying – even if it’s not happening to them.
What else can you do to make sure cyberbullying stops? Here are a few helpful hints: