Bullying isn’t a new problem for parents and young people, but the internet has morphed it into something that’s much more difficult to deal with. The bullying that used to take place in schoolyards is now finding its way into private message inboxes and social media groups. There are many Different Types of Bullying but in this article we'll be going through cyberbullying.
Young people are online now more than ever, and it’s been shown that online bullying is just as harmful as traditional bullying. Victims suffer learning difficulties, anxiety, depression and are significantly more likely to consider suicide. Combine that with the fact that most parents are in the dark about their kids activity online and how to prevent cyberbullying, and you can start to see how big this problem is.
The good news for parents, teenagers, and kids is there are steps you can take to effectively prevent and manage cyberbullying. But, you’ll need to open up to the reality of the issue and be ready for some tough conversations.
5 Shocking Statistics about Cyberbullying
The first step for parents and children to combat cyberbullying is to become aware of the threat. Here are some resulting statistics from numerous study sources, all conducted around the concept of cyberbullying.
1. 43% of teens have experienced cyberbullying in the last year
It’s difficult to get concrete data around the subject of cyberbullying as most incidents go unreported, but the National Crime Prevention Council found that nearly half of teens had experienced some degree of online bullying in the last year.
As parents, it can be easy to put the cyberbullying issue to the back of our minds, convinced ourselves that our kids are unlikely to be involved in an incident. Unfortunately, with resulting numbers like these, you can almost flip a coin on whether or not your child has had at least one incident online in the last 12 months.
2. Two-thirds of Cyberbullying victims have difficulty learning and feeling safe at school
The psychological toll that cyberbullying can take on an affected student can be seen in their tainted school experience. One large scale study found that 64% of online bullying victims say it “really affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school”.
Victims of Cyberbullying often have impaired academic skills and social development as a result of having their mind occupied by fear and anxiety. To have such an event take place during the crucial developmental years in a young person’s life, can become an unwarranted hurdle with a long-term impression.
3. Of those bullied in the last year, 37% developed social anxiety and 36% dealt with depression
A large-scale bullying survey found that social anxiety and depression are very common among those that were bullied in the last 12 months.
That’s one in every three Cyberbullying victims developing what can become a lifelong disorder, as most cases of anxiety and depression found within adults are often developed within childhood/adolescent years.
4. Cyberbullying makes young people more than twice as likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide.
Many victims of cyberbullying are so severely affected they turn to self harm and even suicide. If you think suicide is only a problem in extreme cases, think again. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in adolescents aged 15–19.
It’s very easy to discount the entire scenario of bullying online, yet when you consider the power of your online reputation and the ability for tormentors to follow you wherever you go on a digital landscape, it almost sounds like an inescapable nightmare for young people.
The emotional capacity of teens is something quite vulnerable and unstable, as their developmental years leave them open and exposed to what can feel like “world ending” events.
It is with this knowledge as caregivers that we must take the threat of Cyberbullying seriously.
5. Only 15% of parents are “in the know” when it comes to Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has existed for as long as people have had access to social technology. With an already global reach of daily incidents, Cyberbullying still manages to extend its reach. With that in mind, the lack of parents that are well-informed on the matter is shocking. In fact, only about 1 in 6 parents know how their kids use social networking and how these behaviours lead to cyberbullying.
We have a duty of care when it comes to these things, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge necessary to properly guide and assist our children through incidents of Cyberbullying.
The Underlying Problem
The real issue with cyberbullying is that it’s underestimated by society in general. This goes for both its prevalence and the severity of its consequences.
While screen-time differs between age groups, young people are the most prominent social media users. Averaging approximately 30 hours or more per week of social media consumption. School and social lives revolve around online platforms, making cyberbullying extremely difficult to monitor and manage.
The ‘always connected’ nature of social media makes young people extremely vulnerable when they’re attacked online. Teenager Jessica Cleland is a tragic example of cyberbullying, after receiving hurtful messages on social media, the 19-year-old took her own life. She was described as happy and outgoing with no signs of mental illness prior to being bullied.
It’s tricky, but there are things that kids, teenagers and parents can do to protect against cyberbullying on a personal level and on a school-wide level.
4 Strategies to Stay Safe
The first reaction of parents might be to ban smartphones, tablets and social media altogether. But of course, this isn’t sustainable or helpful in an internet-driven world.
Here are four methods proven to be effective at preventing and reducing the harm of cyberbullying while keeping access to all the amazing things the internet has to offer.
1. Train and equip young people to keep themselves safe
The best way to fight cyberbullying is by educating kids and teenagers in protecting themselves. Victims of cyberbullying often don’t know what to do or who to turn to, resulting in them withdrawing and hiding their feelings. Instead, they should be taught exactly what to do when they witness or fall victim to cyberbullying.
The first step is to be able to identify cyberbullying. This includes posting, messaging or sharing harmful, threatening, false, or negative content or private information about someone else. In essence, online behaviour that causes embarrassment or humiliation to an individual. Practical steps your children should learn:
- How to block unwanted users on social media platforms.
- When to speak up, and that it’s ok to talk to friends and parents about online bullying experiences
- How to report incidents to parents, school, police, and online service providers
- When to see a psychologist to assess emotional harm
2. Talk and build trust
Cultivating a safe and comfortable space for the young people in your world to come forward and address some of the run-ins they’re experiencing online is crucial.If they don’t feel comfortable with sharing their dilemma with you, you will continue on none the wiser and they will continue to suffer in silence.
One of the easiest ways to build a safe space is to bring up a general conversation around cyberbullying, to which you can circle back round at the end to ask if they’ve ever experienced anything like that before. Once scenarios have been addressed, it becomes much easier for young people and parents to plan and take action against further escalation.
3. Set up device controls
It’s possible to install controls on phones, tablets, and computers to limit online activity. There are countless apps available to address different age groups and specific online threats. Some of the core features of device control apps include:
- Restricting access to certain applications
- Blocking certain types of content
- Time-limiting social media and other potentially harmful applications.
- Blocked phrases
Device controls aren’t a complete solution. They can’t censor all cyberbullying threats without removing internet access completely. But, they can certainly be a helpful tool to reduce risk and exposure. After-all, a large percentage of cyberbullying attacks take place after 9:30pm, so something as simple as time-locking device use can prevent a lot of attacks.
4. Schoolwide interventions
One of the most effective ways to deal with online bullying is by getting Anti-bullying Speaker in for the entire school together to build awareness and an anti-bullying culture. There are many methods to do this, but one of the most effective ways in which this can be done is the have an eSafety certified speaker come present at the school on the subject of Cyberbullying.
Having an authority figure on the subject can really help ensure that important message takeaways are understood and adopted into the students thinking and understanding when it comes to online activities.
This can be particularly effective, as many online bullies don’t realise the harm that their actions can cause, they just see it as a bit of fun. Educating all kids and teenagers together helps both victims and bullies of the potential harm and attack the problem from both sides. Great example of School acting action is Brisbane Adventist College, more info here: How Do we intend to deal with Bullying
Take Action to Stay CyberSafe
Cyberbullying is a dangerous and underrated threat for young people. Thankfully, it can be largely preventable with the right measures put in place.
With enough awareness and the right training, we can bring the problem of cyberbullying under control. Making social media platforms a more collaborative and positive place for self-expression and socialising.
These are just a handful of practical tips that you can perform to ensure your loved ones are avoiding falling victim to cyberbullying, and if you're looking for some qualified help in this area or if you know of someone else who is, here are some contacts below that can be of service to you:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
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