What is Cyberbullying?

With the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, teenagers have an opportunity to take cruelty to a new level – cyberbullying. Simply put, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place digitally, through social sites, text messaging, instant messaging, blogs, and other digital media outlets. This type of pervasive bullying is especially harmful, as it can occur at any hour of the day or night. It is often a coordinated effort, organized by several teens against one target. It is not, however, a simple teenage prank. In fact, multiple teens have committed suicide after becoming the victim of this type of harassment.

To understand the severity of cyberbullying, it is first necessary to understand the digital world in which your children live. In previous generations, a name scrawled on a bathroom wall could ruin a reputation. A rumor took time to spread, but was still harmful once established. Now, however, rumors, allegations, and nastiness can spread as quickly as teenagers’ fingers can text. If you have a teen, you’re sure to know exactly how fast that is!

Cyberbullying is generally not a one time communication. Often, it worsens over time, becoming a series of hateful comments that gradually build in intensity. Your teenager may be receiving messages nonstop from a variety of sources, telling her that she’s fat, ugly, and much, much worse. She may be too traumatized by what is happening to her to tell you, or feel that there’s nothing you can do if she does.

Schools and law enforcement agencies, however, are beginning to recognize cyberbullying for the harassment that it truly is. If your teenager confides in you that she is being harassed, be sure to take her seriously. Call your local police department, and print out hard copies of any messages your child has received. Remember – changes can be made quickly on the internet, so printed copies are especially important. You may also inform your Internet Service Provider – they may be able to help you access older information, or provide you with proof of where the emails and messages are coming from.

If your child is being bullied online, be sure to take their feelings seriously. This 24 hour bullying method is brutal, and allows multiple teenagers to gang up on one teenager without ever having to see the consequences of their actions firsthand. It can be a traumatic and harmful experience for your teen. Take the time to fight the bullies, and don’t be afraid to involve law enforcement. If your teenager has been harassed over a long period of time, it may also be wise to consider getting them individual counseling to help them deal with their feelings.

Have a great day!

Lawrence