A Toronto nonprofit, the Canadian Safe School Network, has recently borrowed an idea from Jimmy Kimmel Live in which celebrities read mean tweets about themselves, but instead features children reading cruel cyberbully messages. The video begins with laughter, but soon the mood changes as the hurtful comments keep coming. The project is a great example of what many children experience every day as cyberbullying spreads.
The Root of Cyberbullying

Bullying has evolved in the last few decades, and now even harassment has gone viral. Bullies take to the Internet or hide behind a cell phone to inflict their attacks. The bully and victim relationship is no longer restricted to long hallways, dark corners, or the school playground. Today, a child who is suffering from online harassment is accessible almost anywhere or anytime due to our society’s hyperconnected lifestyles.

Listed below are recent statistics showing how prevalent cyberbullying has become in our culture:

  • 1 in 4 teenagers have been targeted by cyberbullies.
  • 1 in 6 children and teens admit to cyberbullying behaviors.
  • Research has shown that over half of all teens surveyed acknowledge being the victims of abuse via Social Media and technology.
  • One-tenth of upper-grade students (middle and high school) have been targeted with “hate terms.”
  • 95% of teens who witness cyber aggression or bullying admit to ignoring the situation.

Signs Your Child Is a Victim

It is estimated that only 1 in 10 children who are cyberbullied seek help or inform their parents. With the increased chances for depression, thoughts of suicide, and low self-esteem it is vital for parents to be able to read a child’s behaviors. If you suspect he or she is a victim of cyberbullying, understanding a child’s behaviors will allow you to intervene before the cyberbullying escalates.

Cyberbullying signs in children and teens often include the following:

  • Sudden avoidance of cell phones, computers, and other devices
  • Suddenly secretive or emotionally shaken when using technology
  • He or she is more withdrawn or sullen when around family and friends
  • Your child tries to avoid school or activities
  • There is a sudden drop in grades or performances in class
  • A significant weight loss or gain
  • Frequent complaining of stomach aches or headaches
  • Trouble sleeping

12 Strategies to Protect Children From Digital Threats

As a parent, it can be devastating to watch your child struggle if they are on the receiving end of cyberbullying. The ephemeral quality of disappearing messages and the anonymity of the Internet make combating cyberbullying difficult. Many people falsely believe that simply deleting a menacing message is the only line of defense parents have.

Thankfully, here are 12 strategies to improve a parent’s chances of halting cyberbullying:

  • Set up a “curfew” when all devices are powered down at a certain time.
  • Keep electronics in view of others—a child is less likely to engage in cyberbullying if there is a good chance mom and dad will see their posts.
  • Friend your child online and know their friends. Encourage your child to only friend close friends and family.
  • Be aware of fake profiles and the practice of using them to lure teens in by gaining trust or access to personal information.
  • Keep a record of all mean messages and document them with screenshots or save them in a file. This log of evidence will be necessary if you need to seek intervention from the authorities.
  • Encourage your child to learn the “Ps and Qs” of Social Media etiquette.
  • Make family time a high priority. Be involved and schedule activities that show your child how much you value them. This is also a great time to start a conversation about cyberbullying.
  • If your child is suffering, try to read all messages and posts together. This will allow you to be a buffer, know what is happening, and offer a loving shoulder to cry on.
  • Help set high privacy settings and encourage your child to refrain from sharing personal information.
  • Seek an outlet for their frustrations with support groups or counseling.
  • Actively keep tabs on a child’s cell phone and Social Media activity. Know a child’s accounts, passwords, and user IDs or use an app that allows you access to all of their texts or online communications.
  • Above all, remind them that this stage will pass and they will overcome this difficult time.

Unfortunately, mean and hurtful posts are not mere nuisances—they can cause irreparable damage to our children. Cyberbullying is a serious issue facing our youngest generations that needs a parent’s fullest attention. Being aware of how words can hurt is a great starting place to delete cyberbullying.

Soon mean tweeting, texting, or cyberbullying will be a thing of the past, leaving Jimmy Kimmel and other comedians the task of finding humor in politics or reality television.

Article by Amy Kristine Williams – mother of two, social worker, and positive parenting advocate.

Additional resources at: https://www.callersmart.com/guides/49/What-Is-Cyberbullying-and-How-to-Stop-It