While bullying is nothing new, online bullying has taken this torment to a new level. Public threats, taunts and nasty comments can all be linked to and shared in an instant, and mobile phones make it all easier. In fact, cyberbullying is so common that over one in five1 kids say they have been bullied online.
Cyberbullying is generally defined2 as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of the Internet, mobile phones, and other devices. One of the reasons this kind of bullying is so prevalent is due to the fact that the bullies don’t have to confront their victims face-to-face. In an online world, they feel free to bully without any immediate physical consequences. As a case in point, a recent study3 revealed that 71% of respondents were more likely to use slurs online and in text messages than in person.
Unfortunately, the widespread use of mobile phones among kids offer an always-on channel for bullying. Bullies can send threatening text messages, photo messages and even videos to their victims, not to mention harassing phone calls.
Since a lot of kids have smartphones, bullies can easily log on to social networking sites and post comments or photos making fun of their target. Or, they can participate in another common form of cyberbullying—taking a private chat session, text, or email and posting it publicly.
This kind of humiliation can be very distressing to kids, so it’s important to know how to prevent cyberbullying and how to deal with it if it does happen. Here are a few tips to help you and your family cope with this growing problem:
- Explain to your kids exactly what cyberbullying is so they’re better able to identify it.
- Encourage your kids to talk to you about cyberbullying.
- Learn the early warning signs of bullying. Perhaps your child is noticeably agitated after going online or checking their messages. If so, encourage them to talk about it.
- If your child knows someone who is being bullied, encourage them to stand up for that person and not participate in any harassment.
- Keep a detailed diary of any abusive calls, messages, or online posts in case you need to go to the authorities. Also, print off any abusive posts or emails and save any threatening text or voicemail messages.
- If your child is being harassed, consider getting a new mobile phone number and keeping it private.
- Consider software such McAfee Family Protection, which can help you set limits on your child’s online activities, as well as filter objectionable content.
Given the growing popularity of smartphones among kids, it’s important to understand the dangers of cyberbullying and how to prevent it.
3 MTV-AP 2011 Digital Abuse Study