Cyberbullying and Teens
Cyberbullying is a major danger that teens face. Long gone are the days when a bully stood in front of another child, took their lunch money and said threatening words to their face.
Today’s bullies are online and often anonymous. That said, they are often people who your child knows. How can a bully be anonymous and someone your child knows at the same time? The Internet is the perfect place for bullies to hide, making themselves and their cruel comments behind fake profiles.
According to a 2013 report from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), more than 1.7 million children between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being cyberbullied in that one school year alone.
Cyberbullying can be much more than threatening another child online. Rumors get started, unwanted sexual advances are made, revealing or compromising pictures are posted and forwarded, cruel comments are posted, and people group together and attack one victim.
Some of the top ways teens reported being cyberbullied are:
· Having hurtful information posted about them online
· Other people purposefully share private information about them
· Unwanted contact through email
· Unwanted contact through instant messaging
· Unwanted contact through text messaging
· Unwanted contact through online gaming
· Purposeful exclusion from an online community
Not every child who goes online will be cyberbullied. There are plenty of children and teens who regularly use social media and the Internet without incident.
Some children have risk factors that may turn them into unsuspecting targets. These risk factors include: children and teens who are overweight or underweight, viewed as weak, already have low self-esteem, aren’t viewed as “popular” at school or have difficulty get along with others/making friends.
Along with those risk factors, girls are more likely to be cyberbullied than boys. The NCVS data shows that while 8.6% of female students report being cyberbullied, only 5.2% of male students report it.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Depression is one of the major effects of cyberbullying. Teens who are regularly cyberbullied may feel down on themselves, start believing what other people are saying about them online, start skipping school (either out of depression or as a way to avoid the bullies in real life), develop low self-esteem or start using drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
The correlation between cyberbullying and depression was found in 10 different studies after a review of the effects of cyberbullying on teens by JAMA Pediatrics. At the most extreme end of cyberbullying-related depression is suicide.
In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after a boy, classmates and so-called friends began writing cruel messages to the teen on MySpace.
After her death, Megan’s parents found repeated messages on their daughter’s MySpace account from a 16-year-old boy that read, “The world would be a better place without you.”
While this case is shocking, it’s not the only one. Suicide is a depression-related result of cyberbullying that no parent should ever have to experience.
This is why it’s so important to know what your child’s doing online. The best way to know what your teen is doing online is to ask them. If you sense that something is wrong, just talk to your child. “Digitally grounding” them or taking away their internet privileges will not solve anything. Let them know that you’re there for them. Listen to them without judgement.