1. Sending mean, hurtful, or threatening messages via electronic communication (e-mail, IM, text, or posts to social networking sites).
2. Pretending to be someone you are not in order to embarrass or harass a person. Also, pretending to be someone you are not in order to gain access to personal information is not only cyber-bullying, but identity theft!
3. Posting pictures or video of another person in order to harass or embarrass that person.
Consequences of cyber-bullying are more severe because:
1. The victim has no safe place! Usually, a child can retreat to his or her home to escape the bullying, but with cyber-bullying, the harassment is always following them on their phones and computers.
2. The victim sees the messages over and over again! Victims of cyber-bullying tend to continue to read the hurtful messages in order to try and figure out why the bully is sending them. This repetitive confusion and self-doubt has a severe effect on the child.
3. Cyber-bullying is viral! Schoolyard bullying usually only involves a few individuals. However with cyber-bullying, the whole world is privy to the child’s humiliation.
Talk to your children about what it means to be a bully:
There are different types of bullies:
The Controlling Bully: This bully believes that in order to maintain relationships with peers, they must control those peers. We have all seen this bully; the one that no one really likes, but seems popular because no one wants to be his/her next target.
The Victim Turned Bully: In order to retaliate against a bully, the victim becomes the aggressor. This is VERY common in cyber-bullying and why it is so important we teach our children to STOP, BLOCK, and REPORT.
The Mean Girl: Or boy… This bully believes that putting down others is funny and will make others laugh (hence, increasing their own popularity status).
The “I Didn’t Mean To” Bully: This bully doesn’t see himself or herself as a bully. They are often being careless and thoughtless, but do not consider the impact of their actions. This bully will often feel remorse when confronted with how their actions affected others.
A bully’s motivation:
I remember my mother telling me that the reason my bully continued to harass me was because the bully was jealous and insecure. I didn’t believe her! In my experience talking to bullies and victims, I have learned that my mom was in fact wrong (it didn’t happen often). While bullies are sometimes motivated by jealously and insecurity, a problem at home or school or learned behavior (their parents might also be bullies and the child sees this behavior as normal) is what's causing them to act out. The last reason is the hardest pill to swallow… A severe dislike of an individual (the victim). Most parents have a very hard time telling their children that someone just doesn’t like them. Usually, it is because the next question from the child is, “Why?” It’s easier to say there is something wrong with the bully rather than explaining the bully finds them annoying, strange, over-eager, etc. Don’t get me wrong… there is obviously something wrong with the bully, from a lack of manners to an over-inflated sense of self to a bad situation in their own lives. I am NOT blaming the victim - I want to empower them!
Victims need to STOP, BLOCK, and REPORT!
Teach victims to Stop, Block and Report:
Stop – do not interact with the bully. By choosing not to engage online, the victim takes control of the situation. Not engaging is very different that ignoring! Ignoring means that you pretend like it’s not happening. It is happening, and our children need to learn to stand up for themselves. Body language is vitally important when a child stands up for themselves, and this cannot be done in a chat room or via text message. The bully needs to see that the victim is unwilling to accept the harassment. By trying to defend themselves online, the victim usually gets caught in a web of name calling and threats that only make the situation worse. When the victim CHOOSES to stop interacting, shuts it off, and reaches out to you or other close friends, they begin to rebuild self-esteem rather than go on a mission to locate every hateful thing ever said to, or about them.
It is tempting as a parent to expend energy trying to “get the bully that hurt your child” and sometimes, when the bullying happens anonymously, we spend time and even money trying to expose the true culprit. But how does that help your child? Now they just know who it is that hates them so much, and they went to the extent of creating a fake identity to harass your son or daughter. Although behind the scenes, you may choose to handle the situation as you see fit, make sure you are also focusing on what will help your son or daughter rebuild their self-esteem and help them get past the situation.
Block – stop the user from sending any more messages. If the bullying is happening anonymously, then your child should shut down the application being used to transmit the messages. If the bullying becomes overwhelming, the victim may even want to change their cell phone number, e-mail, IM, or social networking accounts and start over again with a smaller group of friends they know they can trust.
Report - print out the entire conversation and tell someone! By teaching our kids to document the situation, we are also giving them some control. They see this as an ACTION. I hope they will tell you first. In a 2012 study, teens reported not telling their parents about cyberbullying because they were afraid parents would take away the technology. Parents, please remember that cyber-bullying is a behavior! Let’s treat the behavior and not the technology! We want to be on the side of the child and not the side of trouble. Over-reacting will only cause our children to hide future situations. Ask your child what they need from you first, and then go from there.
Most websites, including gaming sites, social networking, or anywhere you can interact with other users, have a way to report abuse. That should be the first reporting you do together with your child. Depending on the site and the degree of bullying, they may do everything from warning the culprit, to shutting down an account, or contacting law enforcement.
Different states have different laws about cyber-bullying, however, if your child is being harassed or threatened online, contact local law enforcement immediately!
We need to make sure we are explaining this to our children so we give them the appropriate advice when dealing with a bully. If a child thinks he or she can fix the bully, we put them in situations where they will not win! You cannot stop a bully from controlling others, make them like their victim, retaliate (the victim will never be meaner than the bully), or even ignore a bully. None of this works. The only way to empower a victim is for them to know the truth about why they are being bullied. Then they can figure out how to take back control by rebuilding their own self-esteem, finding a safe group of friends, and reporting the bullying to the appropriate agency to deal with the culprit(s) (sometimes this is a parent, school, social networking site, or law enforcement if a child is being harassed or threatened).
The Bystander’s Role
Bystanders play a major role in how far the bullying will go. When bystanders choose to stand by the victim or even let the bully know they do not condone the behavior, the victim feels supported. Bystanders often feel helpless because they are not aware of their options when they see another person being bullied. Some bystanders feel it is not their place to get involved if they are not directly targeted, the target is not a close friend, they are not participating in the bullying, or there may be consequences for them if they get involved.
Bystanders need to know they have 4 options:
1) Stand up to the bully: Let the bully know their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated (this is a good option for children who either feel very confident in their own personal relationships, or have a direct and close relationship with the bully and therefore their separation from the bully may cause the bully to feel unsupported and alone in their efforts).
2) Stand by the victim (either publically or privately): Letting the victim know they are supported and have people who care about them is vitally important! When a victim feels supported, it can help boost their self-esteem so they can stand up for themselves.
3) Tell an adult: Most children report hiding cyber-bullying from the adults because they are concerned the adults will either take away the technology or make things worse. We need to listen to our bystanders and ask how we can help, rather than deciding to take over and “fix the situation.” I have even had children use their parents as a way out when they see things online that they are unsure of what to do. For example:
Child sees cyber-bullying going on online. Child chooses not to respond online and tells their parent what they saw. Next day at school when other children are talking about the post (as they almost ALWAYS do), your child simply says…”Oh, I didn’t see it. I had my phone taken away and my mom/dad went through my messages. I wonder if they saw it?”
This gives your child a way out and lets the other kids know an adult may have seen the messages.
If your child tells you about a situation involving another child, tread lightly. You need to factor in a few things before making a decision about what to do. Think about the relationship you have with the victim’s and bully’s parents. Can you call them and report what you’ve seen without putting the other parents on the defensive? Will it impact the relationship between your child and other children? Is there a safety concern? If so contact the school or police immediately!
Talk to your children about their role in a cyber-bullying situation.
There are four roles played in cyber-bullying situations:
The Bully: The person directly involved in the malicious act (as described above).
The Victim: The person directly affected by the bullying.
The Bystander: The person who stands by, and while they don't directly bully the victim, he or she is aware of the situation, and does nothing to stop it.
The Advocate: The person who chooses to stand up to the bully and attempts to stop the taunting, teasing, or harassment. OR the person who stands by the victim and offers support (without confronting the bully).
Which role will your child play? Talk to your children about what it means to be respectful, both in real life and online. Take time to role play, allowing your children to experience all four roles so they can decide the best course of action when it comes to cyber-bullying. Also, it is important to model positive and respectful behavior in the home as well. Bullies often learn aggressive behavior in the home, whether it is from a parent or sibling.
It is important that your children have a predefined plan when it comes to how to deal with cyber-bullying. That way, they will have a mental path to follow if they ever find themselves in a situation involving a bully. We don’t want them trying to come up with a plan on the fly, Impulsive actions often lead to more harm than good, rather than a well-thought-out plan that stops bullying!