What is Cyberbullying?

So you’re probably aware that cyberbullying is a big problem, but you may be scratching your head about just what it is.  As a parent you need to be able to know when you see it – both so you can prevent your child from being the victim cyberbullying – or worse, being the bully.

Cyberbullying can take multiple forms, but basically its when one kid or group of kids uses the internet to embarrass, harass or negatively affect another kid.  Cyberstalking or cyberharassment is when an adult does the same thing, but to another adult (or minor.).

Cyberbullies may use email chains, social networks or blogs to post and spread harmful rumors about other kids.  It could be as simple as taking the same old schoolyard tactics of making fun of someone, or twsiting the truth, or harping on an embarrassing incident and posting it online.  The anonymity of the internet – with its lack of face to face contact makes it even easier for tweens and teens to bully one another.

Unfortunately, most kids won’t give much thought to how harmful teasing other kids can be.  It might all seem like a big joke.  Teens lack the empathy to understand that when one person is the butt of everyone’s joke, day in and day out, it’s not funny at all.  Cyberbullying can ruin a teens social standing and reputation, making school a terrible place to be.

As a parent it’s important to teach your children about what constitutes cyberbullying and how they can avoid it.  Ir’s also important that they feel they can come to you if they are facing bullies.   And it’s also critical that you firmly lay down the law on what behaviors you expect from your children online – in other words, tell them being a cyberbully is wrong.   While making fun of another kid or teen may seem like harmless fun, in reality repeated bullying takes a toll on the victim – leading to severe depression and social alienation.

Another important consideration is that issuing threats against another person can be a criminal matter – even if it’s all a big “joke.”  While most parents and school authorities won’t press charges against teenagers for cyberbullying, it’s important that your tween or teen understand that it really is a big deal.

Being int the know about the different forms cyberbullying can take will make it more likely you’ll spot when one of your children is the victim or the bully.  By instituting a zero tolerance rule on the behavior, you’ll be able to stop cyberbullying.