More time spent online during shut downs is leading to an increase in cyber-bullying. So how do we as parents and educators help to protect our children when it comes to cyberbullying?
As parents and educators we want to ensure the emotional and physical health of our children and students. When it comes to bullying, being aware and informed on children's social activities and environments—both in person and online—can help us to prevent bullying and intervene when necessary. In this digital age, most of what is communicated between young teens is online via texting, group message boards, or social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or Facebook.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can be described as when a person is targeted by one or many other people online and harassed in the form of texts, posts, or images. These are sent and posted by cyber bullies with the intent to embarrass, intimidate, and/or hurt victims.
Because cyberbullying can be done during all hours of the day it can create a cycle of torment that can seem impossible to get out of. This cycle can cause a lot of hurt, fear, and distress for the victim. Another important factor in cyber bullying is that because it is online and the harasser cannot see the effects of their actions in person, this may cause them to harass their victims even more.
Cyberbullying can be even more hurtful to the victim because of how public the harassment can be. It is not just mean words said in the hallway but vicious messages that can be posted publicly and sometimes even anonymously on a social media platform or in group text messages.
Examples of Cyberbullying:
- Sending someone an nasty Snapchat message such as “You are fat”, or “You looked so ugly today," etc.
- Posting an embarrassing photo of someone without their permission. Or refusing to remove an embarrassing photo upon request.
- Commenting with vulgar, unpleasant, or disparaging remarks on someone’s Facebook wall or Instagram post.
- Tricking someone into telling you personal information (such as who their crush is) and then posting it publicly and making fun of them.
- Making public rankings or polls about someone's looks on social media, school message boards, or group communications.
What can I do to prevent Cyberbullying?
When someone is being cyberbullied, they may feel alienated and detached from their support system (friends, family, teachers). Therefore, it is important that if you think or know someone is being affected by cyberbullying that you report it and reach out to the victim to help them.
- Ensure that you have clear and open dialogs with your children and/or students:
- Talk to them about cyberbullying, what it is, how they can stop it, and what it means to be an "upstander" versus a bystander.
- Allowing for a safe and open environment for someone to share their struggles is important in stopping the cycle of cyberbullying.
- Commenting mean spirited “jokes” online may seem funny and you but can really hurt othersBefore you post something online, think about how it may make others feel.
- Ask yourself, “Is it kind? Will someone be upset if I post this on social media? Is what I am about to comment mean spirited?”
Include SOCial Emotional Learning to PRevent Bullying
We included specific lessons on bullying in the Emozi™ program, our SEL curriculum for middle school. In grades 6 and 7, teachers can use a variety of lessons to develop middle school students' resiliency and ability to stand up to bullying. Grade 8 includes lessons to help students develop problem-solving skills, handle rejection, and develop compassion. A few of these lessons include:
- Grade 6: Unit 1, Lesson 4, Using Compassion to Stand Up to Bullying
- Grade 6: Unit 1, Lesson 3, Advocacy
- Grade 6: Unit 2, Lesson 8, Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships
- Grade 7: Unit 2, Lesson 9, Bullying
- Grade 7: Unit 2, Lesson 12: Empathy
- Grade 8: Unit 1, Lesson 4, Problem Solving
- Grade 8: Unit 1, Lesson 7, Belonging and Rejection
- Grade 8, Unit 1, Lesson 12, Kindness and Compassion
- Grade 8: Unit 2: Lesson 9, Conflict
What to do if I am being Cyber-bullied?
Know that you are NOT alone.
Unfortunately, you are not the first person to face the fear and pain of cyberbullying. It is important that you understand that this is not your fault. Secondly, you do not have to fight this battle alone! While it can be scary, it is crucial that you reach out to a parent, teacher, or trusted adult. Bullying is never okay!
For additional resources in the US and Canada, visit:
- Cyberbullying Research Center
- Public Safety Canada
- 10 Ways to Be An Upstander, BullyBust.org