October is a month filled with the best of what spooky season has to offer. Increasingly, it is also a month recognized for its bullying prevention efforts, with many organizations highlighting the importance of battling cyberbullying this year.
CallerSmart, an online phone book built around a robust community that works hard to report unwanted numbers such as debt collectors, spammers, scams, and other general harassers recently published an article outlining the different forms of cyberbullying, and how to prevent it. A version of it is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
Cyberbullying affects countless teens and adolescents. A 2019 study of 4,972 middle and high school students in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 shows that 36.5% of the students have been cyberbullied in their lifetimes. Other studies report that 60% of young people had witnessed their peers being bullied, but they didn’t intervene for fear of becoming targets themselves.
Cyberbullying takes place online through social media sites, like Facebook or Snapchat, in chat rooms, or via instant messages or text messages on their mobile phones. Types of cyberbullying include:
- Sharing and posting videos or photos on social media of a person that are cruel in intention or violent.
- Sharing and posting videos or photos on social media or via text messages that are sexually explicit or display violent sexual behavior.
- Making threats of physical harm towards a person or telling someone to kill themselves via email, text, or social media. Threats may also include family members.
- Attacking a person online or via text messages regarding their physical appearance, religion, sexuality, disability, or mental ability, or mental health.
- Impersonating another person online to trick someone into revealing personal details, and then sharing it with others.
- Hacking into another person’s social networking sites, instant messaging apps, or email to send false and cruel messages to others.
With 95% of teens reporting going online at least once daily and 45% stating that they are “online constantly,” the amount of potential exposure to cyberbullying is high. Unlike bullying, cyberbullying can be unrelenting and seem inescapable since it is online and on mobile phones. It can happen at any time of the day, follows pre-teens and teens home after school, and is often completely anonymous.
How to Stop Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is an issue, but it’s one that can be stopped. There are many online resources to help both parents and children cope with cyberbullying and prevent it.
What teens can do…
…if you are a target of cyberbullying:
- Don’t blame yourself for the unfair treatment you are receiving. Bullies have often been the victims of bullying themselves and they treat you poorly so that they can feel control and power.
- Don’t retaliate with more cyberbullying, it’s best to just ignore a cyberbully if you can. You can block them on social media and block texts from them if you don’t want to see it. Bullies are looking for a reaction when they attack a person, if you turn the other cheek they go away.
- If the cyberbullying is getting out of hand and it feels like it is too much for you to handle talk to a trusted adult and ask for advice.
- Keep a record of the cyberbullying in case you decide to report the cyberbullying to authorities. With the proof of cyberbullying directly on your phone and computer it can be easy to prove that you are being threatened and attacked by a cyberbully.
- Report offensive social media posts to the company. If you don’t like what is being posted about you report it. If you are being harassed by text by anonymous numbers you can screenshot the text, block the number, and look it up in a reverse phone lookup app, like CallerSmart. In our app you can also report a harassing number by leaving your feedback so that others will know to also block the number.
…if you see cyberbullying:
- Don’t become a part of cyberbullying by sharing posts, texts, images, or videos which hurt others. Take a stand against cyberbullies.
- Support the person who is being bullied, take the time to listen to them and let them know that it’s not their fault. Even if you aren’t friends with the person being bullied, reach out and let them know that it’s not their fault and that how they are being treated is not right.
- Report the offensive behavior. Most social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, have made it easy to report posts that are inappropriate
…to protect yourself from cyberbullying:
- Be careful with what you share online about yourself. If you share overly personal information publicly and even privately via text or private message a person could use it against you in the future.
- Don’t let other people use your smartphone since it contains personal information and people can access your social media accounts from it.
What parents can do…
…if your child is being cyberbullied:
- Make sure your child feels loved and supported. Have open and frank discussions with your child about what is happening. Encourage ignoring the cyberbully and the temptation to retaliate.
- If the problem continues help your child collect evidence and discuss reporting the cyberbully to school authorities. Go over setting up stronger privacy settings in social media accounts and make sure they know how to report posts that they find hurtful and cruel.
- Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Hearing that your child is being tormented can inspire a range of emotional reactions, one of them being anger. Make sure to be thoughtful and a good listener, don’t react quickly. This will only create more confrontation and problems.
..if your child is a cyberbully:
- Your child may be a cyberbully because they were at one time bullied, either in person or over the internet. Talk to them about what they are doing and how they are hurting other people, make sure that they understand the severity of their actions.
- Talk to them about why they are doing what they are doing and listen to them, don’t react out of anger.
- Monitor their online and phone behavior to make sure that they are not continuing this type of behavior.
- If the problem persists and it doesn’t seem like an isolated offense involve your school authorities in order to show your child that this is a major problem. You may want to seek professional counseling to help your child overcome their problem.
....to prevent cyberbullying from happening:
- Keep the family computer in a public area where you spend a good deal of time.
- Encourage “offline time” with your family. Try to have everyone disconnect for an extended period of time every evening, this could include having family dinner or practicing some shared hobbies together.
- Have open conversations about bullying and cyberbullying, discuss why it’s wrong and what your child should do if they see it.
- Make sure your child knows how to maintain their “digital reputation” and knows not to share personal information that they wouldn’t want made public with anyone. Discuss how to use privacy settings and talk about how to block unwanted content and texts. Teens can report offensive posts, images, and videos to the social media company, they can report and block harassing phone numbers in a community phone book.