Teens are already notorious for taunting their peers, and now technology has provided another avenue for adolescents to become involved in destructive behavior. Thus began the rise of cyberbullying: bullying via electronic communication usually occurring in the form of mean-spirited and particularly harmful messages.
The fact that 88% of young adults use cell phones regularly only serves to exacerbate the issue of cyberbullying. In fact, about 43% of kids have reported being bullied online while 87% have witnessed cyberbullying of others. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are hot spots for bullying, as 58% of kids say they have been negatively addressed on social media. However, growing awareness of the topic has led to various initiatives to stop cyberbullying at home and in school.
Here are a few tips to protect kids from cyberbullying:
Educate kids about cyberbullying
Research indicates that most kids are not completely sure what constitutes the act of cyberbullying. In a recent study about student screen time conducted by Securly, K-12 students spoke very casually about online teasing/taunting as if it were an expected norm. Many students may not realize when they have gone too far, or when someone else has crossed the line.
Acts that can be considered cyberbullying include using offensive language (e.g., hateful, derogatory, racist, or homophobic remarks), harassment, gossip, or even impersonating someone on the web. It is important that kids are informed of the cyberbullying resources and support systems available to them – unfortunately, only 1 in 10 victims reach out to an adult about the abuse.
Teach students how to be good digital citizens! Qualities of digital citizenship include responsible and considerate behavior on the web. Schools should (and many do) instill a firm anti-cyberbullying policy and a report system in order to prevent cyberbullying.
It’s important for cyberbullying victims to realize they are not alone; too often, kids who are bullied can slip into depression and are as much as 9 times more likely to consider suicide. And as we have seen in many recent tragic school shootings in the United States, seeking revenge for being bullied or cyberbullied by peers is often the strongest motivation for committing such a violent act. Understanding the ramifications of cyberbullying will help kids be more considerate of how they treat others.
Customize privacy settings on social media
Cyberbullies can be peers, but also strangers on the Internet under anonymous usernames that post hurtful comments. This can be just as impactful as mean-spirited words from someone they know.
Kids can limit their social media circles to a positive environment consisting of friends, family, and trusted acquaintances. This can be as simple as being discriminating when accepting friend requests.
Most social media sites have features that allow the user to limit who can see their profile. Facebook in particular has a feature that allows users to hide photos from specific people of the user’s choosing. Check out this article for instructions on how to customize privacy settings on various social media platforms.
Use anti-cyberbullying technology
Protect kids from cyberbullying by stopping it at the source! Get kids to think about what they’re about to post by using helpful new technological innovations.
High schooler Trisha Prabhu created an app called “ReThink” which asks kids to think twice about the content which they are posting if the message seems to have a negative tinge. She found that 93% of the time, children chose not to post an offensive message. The part of the adolescent brain that controls decision making is not fully developed, which explains why young adults often times make rash decisions without fully considering the consequences.
There are also a variety of cyberbullying prevention apps that detect keywords relating to bullying, sexual content, profanity, etc which can help parents monitor their child’s behavior. The recent advances made in machine learning and natural language processing allow some apps to detect sentiments of bullying and self-harm (even in the absence of keywords) used on social media.