Cyberbullying is the use of technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. It includes teasing and being made fun of, defamation, spreading rumors online by email or posted on social networking sites, sending unwanted or embarrassing pictures, messages, and videos.
Cyberbullying has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers with the increasing use of smartphones, computers, tablets, and communication tools, including social media sites, text messages, email, chat rooms, discussion groups, and websites on the Internet.
To prevent cyberbullying, it’s crucial to understand the risk factors and which members are more likely than others to be targeted. In this way, we can better prepare and educate them about the dangers of cyberbullying and how to protect themselves by recognizing these risk factors.
Generally, children who are regularly bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:
- They are often perceived as different from their peers because they are overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or wear different clothing, are new to a school, or cannot afford or cope with their peers.
- Perceived as weak to defend themselves
- Depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
- Less popular and have very few friends
- Seen as provoking or annoying, or antagonizing others for attention.
- Do not get along well with others.
Cyberbullying can have a severe, negative impact on kids and teenagers. Cyberbullying can result in:
- Emotional distress, depression, frustration, anger, embarrassment, sadness, fear.
- Interference with schoolwork or job performance
- Drop out, or switch schools
- Delinquency and violence
- Substance abuse
- Possession of weapons
- Suicide tendency
In video game culture, sexual harassment has become one of the most common forms of cyberbullying. According to a recent study, this harassment is partly due to the representation of women in video games. Slurs directed at women, sex-role stereotyping, and overaggressive language are common examples of harassment.
With the rise in popularity of social media, online chat rooms, blogs, and personal websites, cyberbullying has increased. Cyberbullies use social networking sites as a platform to attack others. Cyberbullied youth are more likely to use social networking sites or post personal information on websites or blogs. Adjusting your account settings to private to avoid unwanted visitors seeking private information is one way to prevent cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can occur in the following ways:
- Forwarding private messages to others: A child or adolescent may create a screen name that is very similar to the name of another child. There could be an extra I or one less “e” in the name. They may use this name to impersonate another user and say inappropriate things to them. They then may forward this private communication to others to spread it.
- Impersonating to spread rumors: One may post a provocative message in a hate group’s chat room posing as the victim, inviting an attack against the victim, often giving the victim’s name, address, and telephone number to make the hate group’s job easier.
- Posting embarrassing photos or video: It is possible to take a picture or video of someone in a locker room, bathroom, or dressing room and post it online or send it to others via cell phone.
- By using websites or blogs: Kids may occasionally create websites or blogs that may be offensive to or dangerous to another child. They create pages with the express purpose of insulting another child or group of people.
- Sending threatening emails and pictures through email or mobile to hurt another: Children may send hateful or threatening messages to other children without realizing that such messages are hurtful and dangerous even if they are not said in person.
- Insulting other users in interactive online games: Children and teenagers verbally abuse one another, using threats and foul language while playing online or interactive games.
- Stealing passwords: A child may steal another child’s password and start chatting with strangers while pretending to be the other child or changing the user profile.
How to prevent cyberbullying
When adults respond to bullying behavior quickly and consistently, they send a message that it is not acceptable. According to research, this can help to reduce bullying behavior over time. Adults can take simple steps to stop bullying in its tracks and keep children safe.
- Act quickly to intervene. It is acceptable to enlist the assistance of another adult.
- Separate the children who are involved.
- Ascertain that everyone is safe.
- Take care of any medical or mental health issues that arise right away.
- Maintain your composure. Reassure all involved children, including bystanders.
- When you intervene, be a role model for respect.
Avoid the following common blunders:
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t expect kids to figure it out on their own.
- Don’t try to sort out the facts right away.
- Don’t make other kids say what they saw in public.
- Do not interrogate the involved children in front of other children.
- Don’t talk to all of the kids involved at the same time; instead, talk to them separately.
- Don’t expect the kids involved to apologize or make amends right away.
Guidelines for teachers and parents
- To prevent children from cyberbullying others or accessing inappropriate content, use Parental Control Bars, Desktop Firewalls, and Browser Filters.
- Check to see if your child’s school offers Internet Safety education.
- You can ask school officials to teach or guide students on how to avoid and respond to online peer harassment, interact responsibly on social networking sites, and be responsible online users.
- Create computer lab and Internet lab rules.
- Establish clear rules, guidelines, and policies for using the Internet, computers, and other devices such as USB drives and CDROMs at school to prevent cyberbullying.
- Teach students about the dangers of cyberbullying.
- Teach students that all forms of bullying are unacceptable and will result in disciplinary action.
- Establish peer monitoring and mentoring of students.
- Teachers must mentor or establish mentorship relationships with senior students to guide information security awareness and monitoring among peers.
- To avoid or prevent children from cyberbullying others or accessing inappropriate content, use desktop firewalls and browser filters. In addition, use software tools to monitor students’ online activity.
- Educate students by holding workshops with an internal or external expert to discuss cyberbullying, good online behavior, and other relevant topics.