While bullying has always been a problem encountered during childhood and adolescence, we all know that it is on the rise. Bullying is when a child is intentionally mean to another child, but it occurs over and over again. Bullying used to occur on the playground, at lunch in the cafeteria, in the locker room or even over the phone. With all of the latest technology, bullying has become even more prevalent, and there are all sorts of new “means” of bullying.
Enter cyberbullying; bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Cyberbullying occurs when a child/teen deliberately uses digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or just plain mean messages or pictures about a person to another person. Cyberbullying can occur via text, email, on facebook or twitter or the dozens of other social media sites that tweens and teens use. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying, “the most common online risk for all teens”.
Studies have shown that between 25-45% of teens report being bullied online. Many report having had this occur more than once. Cyberbullying is also occurring at all ages as even younger children have access to technology and the internet. Children, tweens and teens all need to understand that the internet is not a “safe” place and that it is a public forum. Even if you delete a message or a picture it is truly not deleted, but exists in the cyberspace world. Many teens mistakenly think that they will “not get caught” if they bully on line, or that it is “not that big a deal”.
Parents need to discuss internet safety and the problem with cyberbullying with their children. This is especially important for the tween/teen age as much of their life is “online”. Just like good manners in public, children need to learn on line manners as well. If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, then it should not be emailed or text on the internet! It is really as simple as that.
I call this the “front door rule”. Tell your child that if they write an email or text, or post something on facebook, twitter or Instagram (and there are other sites as well) to think before they push send. If they would not want to post the information on their front door so that all of the neighbors and their own family could see it, then don’t send it! Stop, think and change the message. It could hurt someone more than you realize and it may also be forwarded to hundreds, thousands or even millions of others. There was something to be said about just having a phone to talk on!