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Cyber Bullying - What It Is, Why It Happens, and What Parents Can Do

By Judene Macariola, Guest Contributor to TechAddiction

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily the views of TechAddiction and/or Dr. Conrad.

Bullies are everywhere and these days, their online presence is growing. Children and teenagers are exposed to cyber bullies at a greater extent than they are exposed to school bullies. They can be harassed at home, school, and virtually anywhere with an online connection. According to recent research, 42% of children have been bullied online and 77% report being bullied either online or by other methods.

As a parent or an educator, you can prevent youth from becoming victims of cyber bullying and also help them deal with ongoing cases of bullying. To prevent future cases of online bullying and to identify current cases, it is very important to understand what cyberbullying is and the telltale signs that it is occurring.

What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is an aggressive and intentionally hurtful or intimidating behavior directed towards someone else. Unlike "normal" bullying which happens in person, it obviously takes place online and at times, may even be seen as a cybercrime. It does share one key element that defines bullying – an imbalance of power or strength. The cyber bully assumes this power to torment and weaken his victims.

The act may involve sending messages or images that are hurtful, threatening, or vulgar; posting private information about someone else; assuming a different identity to make that person look bad; or intentionally excluding someone from an online group.

Examples of cyber bullying

Cyber bullying can manifest in many forms. Listed below are just some examples of how it can unfold online.

  • Sharing an embarrassing video of someone on social networks like Facebook or video-sharing websites like YouTube

  • Sharing a photo and personal information about a person without consent

  • Leaving abusive remarks about another user in a forum

  • Spreading rumors and lies about a person

  • Recording and sharing videos of abusive attacks; an act called “happy slapping”

  • Creating a different profile on social networking sites to either make fun someone or damage that person’s reputation

  • Sending threatening or nasty messages and emails to other people

  • Repeatedly harassing someone in a chat room

  • Spreading viruses to damage someone else’s computer

  • Intentionally excluding someone from a social networking group

  • Forcibly acquiring personal information about a person, only to be used against him/her

Even though a person didn’t start the bullying, he/she can still be considered a cyber bully just by laughing at the hurtful media and sharing them to others. Any act that is hurtful to someone may be seen as a threat or harassment – even when done online. Sometimes, cyber bullying can even progress to offline bullying such as physical abuse, verbal attacks, and relationship bullying. This is especially true for kids who go to the same school or live in the same city as their tormentors.

Why cyber bullying hurts

Cyber bullying is hurtful because it makes victims feel hopeless, helpless, powerless, and alone all at the same time. Children and teens who are cyber bullied often feel ashamed and guilty too, as they are made to believe that it’s their fault they’re being bullied (i.e., that they "deserve it" for some reason).

Why does cyber bullying happen?

There are many reasons why kids and teens become cyber bullies. Usually however, cyber bullies have some sort of insecurity. To protect their egos and feel superior, they make others feel bad about themselves. Some cyber bullies see it as a means to gain popularity and others do it to feel powerful or escape their own problems. At times, cyber bullies themselves may be bullying victims so they “prey” on other people to feel better about themselves.

The effects of cyber bullying on a child or teen

Cyberbullying can have a significant impact on a child or teens emotional and psychological well-being. Someone who is a victim of online bullying may experience feelings of depression, stress and anxiety, loneliness, and may have great difficulty sleeping. It can affect their academic performance, and may result in poor or unhealthy eating habits, social withdrawal from others, poor concentration, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide. In summary, online bullying can be devastating for a child or teen and can make his or her life absolutely unbearable.

How Parents Can Help

If your child is being bullied online, it is very important to encourage open communication with you about it. Children who are being bullied online often feel as though they have no one to turn to for help. You must make sure that your child feels comfortable coming to you for support and advice - not just for dealing with bullying, but for any challenge they may face during these critical formative years. Let your child know that he or she can come to you for any problem and that they will not be criticized or judged. Depending on the situation, you may choose to consult with teachers, school counsellors, mental health professionals, or others in authority positions who may be able to provide assistance. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the bullying is temporary or that your child should simply “ignore it”. Stay involved, stay supportive, and make sure to take action if your child is the victim of online bullying.

Guest Author Bio

Judene Macariola is an advocate against cyber bullying. He works as an analyst at Broadband Expert, a consultation firm that advises home owners regarding internet options.

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Cyber bullying
Why it is, why it happens, and what parents can do

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