By Maia Christopherson
Cyberbullying comes in many forms. Through electronic means, teens will cyberbully by spreading rumors, sending threatening messages, posing as another teen and post embarrassing material, and forwarding private photos without consent. Cyberbullying is an attempt to humiliate and degrade another through social media. Cyberbullying has serious consequences, with many teens committing suicide each year because of it.
Other forms of bullying are often private. Cyberbullying, on the other hand, is particularly harmful because it is so public. Anything posted online is in a permanent space accessible to anyone. Teens who suffer from cyberbullying can’t even find refuge in their home since social media is always there.
Talk with Your Teen About Cyberbullying
Because cyberbullying is so prevalent and toxic, it’s important to talk with your teen about it. Here are some things that you can discuss:
- Make sure that your teen understands what cyberbullying is
- Tell your teen that they can talk to you if they are ever cyberbullied
- Encourage your teen to tell you if their friends or peers are cyberbullied
- Educate your teen about the repercussions of cyberbullying
- Clarify that even liking or sharing hurtful content is unacceptable
- Encourage your teen to reach out to others who are victims of cyberbullying and lend support
How to Notice if Your Teen is a Victim and How to Help
Parents and teachers often don’t see cyberbullying since it’s not something that you see in person—it’s done online. If you want to know if your teen is being cyberbullied, the trick is to be aware of your teen’s behaviors. If your teen is a victim, some warning signs may include:
- Shutting down their social media account and opening a new one
- Avoiding social situations, even if they enjoyed socializing in the past
- Hiding their screen or device from others or becoming cagey about what they do online (perpetrators will do this too)
- Becoming emotionally distressed or withdrawn
Once you notice signs of cyberbullying, you can take action. To help your teen, you should:
1) Ask your teen gentle questions to determine the situation.
2) Document the bullying. Take screenshots of abusive messages or behavior. This will help you report the bullying to the relevant authorities.
3) Report the cyberbullying to your teen’s school. Work with teachers, mentors, and guidance counselors to get support for your teen. You can also report the cyberbullying to the social media platform where it happened.
4) If your teen receives threats, don’t hesitate to contact the police.
For additional information about online safety, read about Gaming Safety Tips.