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Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communications to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Methods used include electronic technology like cell phones, computers, and tablets, as well as social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Cyberbullying tends to to be more prevalent around the ages of 10 to 18, and in some cases earlier. Those who tend to bully at school also tend to cyberbully.

According to kidshealth.org, about 1 in 4 teens have been cyberbullied and about 1 in 6 teens admit to have cyberbullied someone.

According to bullyingstatistics.org, only 1 in 10 teens tell a parent they have been cyberbullied. Fewer than 1 in 5 cyberbullying incidents are reported to law enforcement. Hurtful comments and rumor-spreading are the most common types of cyberbullying.

How Does Cyberbullying Happen?

Cyberbullying can include mean text messages, rumors started on social media or sent by email, embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. Other examples include posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or webpages, stealing a person’s account information to break into an account and send damaging messages, pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person, sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person.

According to stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can even reach kids when they are alone. Cyberbullying can be done anonymously, which is more appealing to some kids. Messages and images can be seen by a wide amount of people very quickly. It can be very hard to take down or delete the inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures after they have been posted.   

What are the Effects of Cyberbullying?

Kidshealth.org says that cyberbullying puts both the victims and the bullies at a higher risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Stopbullying.gov notes that cyberbullying can increase depression and anxiety, along with feelings of sadness and loneliness. There can be changes in sleep and eating patterns, and also, a loss of interest of activities they used to enjoy. There is a chance the kids will experience health complaints and decreased academic achievement, and they are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Stopbullying.gov also says that kids who bully others can have a tendency to abuse alcohol and other drugs, get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. They can become involved in early sexual activity, criminal convictions, traffic citations, and abusive actions toward romantic partners, spouses or children.

There can also be effects on bystanders, according to stopbullying.gov. These kids show an increase in use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, and show signs of increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, or missing/skipping school.

What are the Signs of Cyberbullying?

According to kidshealth.org, signs of cyberbullying include emotional upset from being on the internet or the phone; being secretive or protective of digital life; withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities; avoiding school or gatherings; slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home; changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite; wanting to stop using the computer or cell phone; nervousness when receiving an instant message, text, or email and avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities.

Why Do Kids Cyberbully Each Other?

Kids are most likely to cyberbully because they are motivated by anger, revenge, frustration, or even for fun. They may be bored or want to get a reaction from the other person. Sometimes they do it by accident, by not thinking about what they are sending to that other person.

Endcyberbullying.net says that most popular kids or teens bully because they want to stay popular. Hurting others make them feel more powerful. Also, teens who are less socially successful bully because it helps them cope with their own self-esteem. They think it will help them fit in with their peers, and they have trouble empathizing with those they have hurt.

What Do You Tell kids Who Have Been Cyerbullied?

Tell the kids that it’s not their fault that this has happened to them. Make sure that you tell them they are not in trouble and that you are proud of them for telling you about being cyberbullied.

According to connectsafely.org, to stop bullying, the kids need to know that it’s not their fault. They shouldn’t respond or retaliate. They should save the evidence, tell the person to stop, and reach out for help, especially if the behavior is getting worse. Use available social technology tools that can help block or report the harassment. If there are threats of violence, talk to the police with the parents or guardian. Protect your accounts and don’t share your passwords with anyone, and lastly, if someone you know is being bullied, take action.

Connectsafely.org says that if your child doesn’t want to go to school, or seems agitated when they are on the computer or phone, ask them calmly if they have encountered mean behavior or social issues. Even if they don’t tell you anything, don’t assume it’s bullying and try to get the child’s perspective of what is going on. You should also work with your child and talk to them about how to solve the social situation. Involving the child will help them regain their dignity and control of the situation.