Cyberbullying is a growing concern for American teens. Cyberbullying occurs when individuals use technology to write aggressive, embarrassing, or hateful messages to/about peers in order to intimidate, harass, shame, and control. Approximately 80% of teens use a smart phone regularly, 92% of teens report going online at least once a day, and 56% go online several times a day. With high online activity, teens either witness cyberbullying, are a victim of it, or become a perpetrator. Cyberbullying is on the rise, and the impact is often underestimated.
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Cyberbullies attempt to control, shame, or harass other internet users, often creating one or more fake profiles. Cyberbullies use tactics such as gossip, exclusion, or harassment, but some cyberbullies will resort to cyberstalking or impersonation. Impersonation allows a cyberbully to gain a user’s trust. Once they have the trust, cyberbullies will reveal embarrassing secrets about the other user. While cyberbullying rates are rising, parents concerns are not. Approximately 94% of parents misjudge the rate of conflict occurring on social networking sites and only 7% admit they worry about cyberbullying in general. This creates a problem as cyberbullying can lead to depression and even suicide.
Today, 71% of teens use more than one social network and have come across cyberbullying in some shape or form. 21% of teens said the main reason they checked social media so often was to make sure nobody was saying mean things about them. The Megan Meier foundation also found:
A study also found that “hyper-networking” teens that spend more than 3 hours per school day on social networks are 110% more likely to be cyberbullied.
Cyberbullying complaints have led many social networks to change bullying policies.
Teens cyberbully for a variety of reasons. Some believe it’s easier to get away with than face-to-face bullying, while others believe teens do it to stay popular or feel powerful.
Many teens also bully because of anger, revenge, or as a way to vent frustration. Teens will also cyberbully because they are bored, have too much time on their hands, or an abundance of tech toys. Cyberbullies may also participate to avoid being bullied themselves.
Teens may experience or partake in a variety of cyberbullying tactics.
Many of the tactics above have been brought up in court, and all states have laws in place regarding cyberstalking or cyberharassment. Since it is a relatively new topic, more laws are appearing as new cyberbullying cases appear.
In 2011, girls were more likely to cyberbully than boys. As of 2015, roles have changed as a new study found boys are now cyberbullying more than girls. Cyberbullying tactics vary by gender. Boys are more likely to:
While girls are more likely to:
When teens come across bullying, the most common reaction is to ignore it.
Instead of ignoring bullying, some react in a worse way:
Teens will often join in cyberbullying often to feel included or like they are part of a group. They don’t realize their decision only alienates individuals and can have grave effects on those being cyberbullied.
Teens that experienced cyberbullying reacted in a variety of ways. Some addressed the situation while others felt the need to change their day:
While cyberbullying can change the course of someone’s day, it can also leave a deeper impact:
Cyberbullying has also increased the need for mental health services. The number of children referred to mental health services rose 25% from 2013 to 2014. The number of children receiving counseling for online bullying also rose 87% between 2013 to 2014.
Increased rates of depression lead to other issues for teens. Bullied teenagers are twice as likely to commit suicide than non-bullied teenagers.
Know the signs of depression. If an individual is talking about death, engaging in reckless behavior, or giving away prized possessions, they may be depressed. If there is any inclination that someone is depressed, talk to them. Let them know there is help, and they’re not alone.
While parents know cyberbullying happens, approximately 94% underestimate the amount of conflict that occurs on social media sites, and only 7% of US parents actually worry about cyberbullying. Parents should be aware of the following signs that point to their teenager being cyberbullied:
Robert Faris, researcher of school bullying and youth aggression, believes:
“Parent monitoring effectively erased the negative effects of online conflicts.”
Parents can influence teens’ awareness of inappropriate behavior online or over the phone. 58% of teen internet and cell phone users say their parents have the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate, yet only 1 in 6 parents are aware when their child is being cyberbullied.
If you would like to prevent your teen from being cyberbullied or feel they may be at risk, bullyingstatistics.org offers some advice:
Encourage your teenager to take a stand if they witnesses bullying. Also encourage them to:
While many shocking statistics tie cyberbullying to teenagers on social media, social networks can still be an effective way for teens to connect with friends and feel supported. It is important that teens feel safe using social media and know they can talk to someone if issues arise. If your teen is active on social media, initiate open discussions about cyberbullying and make it safe for them to talk with you about it.