Up-Stander’s Guide to Cyber-Bullying
Be an UP-Stander, not a Bystander!
The rapid growth of technology has given rise to new kinds of negative online conduct, often referred to as “cyberbullying” or “enticement” offenses. Although cyberbullying among teens and their peers is the most talked about online conduct, youths also are vulnerable to adult predators and bullies.
Maybe you’ve seen it — or if you’re lucky, you’ve only heard about it. Regardless of your own experiences, however, cyberbullying is a threat, most particularly to youth and requires everyone’s participation to stop.
Learn About Cyber-Bullying
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, degrade, or target another person. Often, cyberbullying extends over a prolonged period of time. Because cyberbullying is committed through electronic devices and over social media platforms, mean and hurtful messages can be posted and distributed quickly to a wide audience, adding to the victim’s pain. It can be difficult, and in certain cases, impossible to delete cyberbullying messages.
Some cases of cyberbullying are criminal offenses.
The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” does not apply in the world of Internet technology, where false, hurtful or humiliating comments can go viral and global in just seconds.
Online predators tend to hide behind false online profiles and troll the Internet looking for vulnerable youths to prey upon. For example, when a suicide or death strikes a community they may pretend to show support for adults and children in the community — they may even pretend to have known the victim! After weeks or months of being a child’s “online friend,” they may privately message or text the child, and ultimately, may secretly arrange a visit.
You might think this kind of contact is completely innocent, but often, the adult hiding behind the false Internet profile will convince the child to meet with them alone, or share pictures, videos or other compromising materials. These kinds of online relationships are a source of some of the child pornography on the Internet and are criminal offenses.
It is important for youths to communicate with and accept friend requests ONLY from real people who they actually KNOW – even if the person seeking their friendship appears to be an adult who appears safe.
How is Cyberbullying Committed?
Cell phones are the most common medium for cyberbullying, as 80% of teens use them regularly. Because the act of cyberbullying avoids face-to-face contact, it requires less courage than in-person bullying. In fact, 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in-person.
Many youths who are cyberbullied are also bullied in-person and/or at school as well – sometimes the online and in-persons bullies are the same person or persons.
What Qualifies as Cyberbullying and WHO is Affected?
Cyberbullying threatens people of all ages, gender, ethnicity, backgrounds; basically, anyone who has access to a cell phone, computer, or any other device that connects to the Internet, apps and social media networking sites. Youth are the most “at risk” group for this kind of conduct.
Cyberbullying can appear in many forms, including:
- mean text messages or emails;
- rumors sent by email (to the victim or others);
- rumors posted on social networking;
- rude, critical or condescending comments on a post or status;
- posting embarrassing pictures and videos;
- the creation of “blackmail” files, which may be used against the person at a later date or later in life; and
- the creation of fake online profiles.
While some cyberbullying is easy to spot, other actions are more difficult to recognize. For example, a bully may hide behind a false identity or hack into someone’s social media account and may even impersonate the victim online and send out hurtful messages. For this reason, it is important to change passwords to social media and email accounts regularly and often.
Some people worry that cyberbullying may happen accidentally, because often it is difficult to detect the tone of a text message or an online interaction. However, a repeated pattern of emails, text messages, posts, and false or hurtful comments is rarely accidental; cyberbullying is most often more than a one-time instance.
What are the Effects of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can have extreme and detrimental effects. Youths who are bullied are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides. They are more likely to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Skip school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have health problems
Youths who are bullied are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.
According to cyberbullying.us, the negative emotional outcomes and behaviors (upset, embarrassment, worry, anger, sadness, depression) increase when technology is a factor in the bullying.
Don’t be a ByStander
Staying silent on the issue only fuels the bullies’ power and further hurts the person being bullied. Teens, friends, fellow students of victims, teachers and parents who fail to intervene in a bullying situation perpetuate the abuse — they make it worse.
“There is strength in numbers. Every school and every community has more caring kids than bullies. If you are NOT part of the solution, you ARE part of the problem.” ~StompOutBullying.org
Take the Pledge
According to the Pew Internet Research Center:
- more than 33% of teens have been cyberbullied; and
- 90% of teens who use social media have seen online cruelty and have ignored it.
Let’s turn those statistics around!
Take Action Get the Word Out
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary flyer to distribute in your community.
Reduce the RISK of Cyberbullying: A Parent’s Guide
- Make sure your children understand that social media is not a right, but rather a privilege. As their parents, you have the right and the obligation to review their online communications if you think there is a reason for concern.
- Ask them for their passwords, but reassure them that you’ll ONLY use them in case of an emergency. Make sure your children keep their passwords safe and do not share them with anyone other than you – not even their friends.
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” them on social media sites. If this is not an option, ask a trusted adult to do so instead.
- Establish rules for Internet safety and enforce the rules. Review their “friend” lists and make sure that you know the people they are talking to through email, texts or messages. Remind your child not to “friend,” message or communicate with a stranger.
- Make sure your children understand that once something is shared on the Internet, there is no way to erase it — if something compromising was posted, then it is likely that someone took a screen shot or downloaded the image or message.
- Encourage them to tell you if they — or someone they know — is being cyberbullied. Reassure them that by their reporting, you will not take away their computer, cell phone, or social media privileges unless necessary for safety purposes.
- Take action if you learn of cyberbullying — reach out to the parents of a child you learn is being cyberbullied, offer your support and help them through the process, if necessary.
Often, online predators look for vulnerable youth, pretend to be someone they are not and try to gain the trust of youths. It is important NOT to accept a friend request or communicate with someone who you do not actually know.
How to Take Action If You or Someone You Know is Cyber-Bullied
If your child tells you that he or she is being cyberbullied:
- Respond thoughtfully to their situation – don’t panic. Remind your child they are not alone — cyberbullying is a national epidemic.
- Immediately take a screenshot or print out a hard copy of the abusive communications and save them – this may be critical proof of the conduct later, especially if the abuse continues. If the content is shared elsewhere, download or copy those posts, too.
- After printing or saving an electronic version of the post or posts, delete the posts that you have the ability to delete.
- Consider “un-friending” and/or blocking the person(s) sending the offensive materials and those who shared the content.
- Let someone at school know about the situation – but be sure to tell your child that you are doing this.
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” your child on social media sites to serve as a watchful eye over them. If they are concerned about you commenting on their posts, reassure them that you won’t comment or post anything to their profile. If this is not an option, then have a trusted adult do this instead.
Report Cyberbullying to Other Authorities
Reporting cyberbullying is a crucial step in ensuring a safer environment for our youth. Here are some steps to take immediately:
- Keep evidence of cyberbullying by taking a screen shot and/or saving an electronic or printed copy of all versions of the communications.
- If you are unable to remove the posts, then report cyberbullying to online service providers, as cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites.
- Report cyberbullying to law enforcement when the cyberbullying includes threats of violence, messages encouraging a child to hurt himself or others (directly or indirectly), child pornography, sexually explicit messages or photos, stalking and hate crimes.
Be an Up-Stander: Say NO to Cyber-Bullying.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” ~ Elie Wiesel
Additional Facts, Figures and Resources
Cyberbullying affects a vast portion of our youth, and by going untreated, can have serious and extreme effects. Because many victims of cyberbullying are reluctant to report their abuse, it is impossible to know for certain just how many youth and teens are affected. However, recent studies have found alarming results. According to DoSomething.org:
- About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online; more than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced online threats
- 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online
- Only 1 in 10 victims inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse
- Fewer than 1 in 5 cyberbullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
- About 75% of students admit they have visited a website that bashes another student
- Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying
- Types of cyberbullying tend to differ by gender: girls are more likely to post mean comments online, while boys are more likely to post hurtful pictures or videos
- Approximately 160,000 children a day stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied – that’s over 3 million students a month.
Note: We hope this post will spark dialogues between youths, parents and teachers about how to engage in safe Internet practices. If you are threatened, sense an emergency or see someone who appears to be in distress, always call 911, local law enforcement or other emergency services.
Helpful Resources You Might Be Interested in Reviewing:
Information in this post was compiled by LCE Intern Julie Spindel, a History and Philosophy Major at Colgate University, Class of 2017.
#BeAnUPstander #InvestInNativeYouth #EmpowerYouth #StopCyberBullying #EdChat