Bullying is an issue that has plagued children and youth for generations, but in today’s digital age, it has taken on a new and more insidious form – cyberbullying. This harmful behavior not only occurs in schools but also online, using technology to harass, intimidate, and harm others. This month is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we intend to shed light on this issue and understand its severe impact, especially on children and teenagers.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying involves the deliberate and repeated use of technology, such as computers and smartphones, to target, harass, or threaten others. It takes various forms, including catfishing, which involves creating fake online identities; trolling, which entails posting provocative or disruptive comments to activate emotional and distressing responses from others, or to make racist/prejudice/ hateful comments; as well as cyberstalking; and other forms of online harassment. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying invades the victim’s private spaces, making it harder to escape. This can lead to severe emotional and psychological distress.
Cyberbullying isn’t just a digital problem; it has real-world repercussions, particularly on the mental health of its victims. Children and teenagers who are subjected to cyberbullying experience anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The continuous stress and fear disrupts their daily lives, making them anxious about attending school and other social settings, leading to feelings of isolation.
What Parents and Caregivers Can Do?
Early intervention is crucial in preventing long-term effects on mental health. Parents/caregivers, teachers, and peers should take bullying behavior seriously. It’s essential to create an environment where victims can share their concerns without judgment. Honest and open conversations about bullying, both in person and online, should be a regular routine. Monitoring online activities and educating children about the potential dangers of cyberbullying is equally important.
To combat the effects of bullying, parents can empower their children with affirmations and loving messages. Positive affirmations can boost self-worth, compassion, respect, and kindness, fostering a strong sense of self. Let your children know how valued they are, how much they are loved, and that they are not alone in facing this modern-day challenge. Parents can also limit exposure and acceptance of bullying behavior, i.e. regulating reality shows and social media content that demonstrates bullying or “mean girl/boy” behavior.
Bullying, especially cyberbullying, has lasting and severe consequences on the mental health and well-being of children and teenagers. Understanding the issue, fostering open communication, and empowering young individuals with positivity and resilience are essential steps in combating this pervasive problem. Together, we can create a safer and more supportive environment for our youth in this digital age.
This brief manual from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reviews the relationship between bullying and suicide and offers suggestions and resources for schools.
The Stopbullying.gov website has information and resources about bullying and cyberbullying for parents, educators, teens and kids.
Resources about bullying and suicide in youth.
Cyberbullying.org has the top 10 prevention tips for teens in PDF.
This resource gives suggesting in preventing cyberbullying and ways to protect yourself from cyberbullying.