Bullying has evolved in recent years, thanks largely to social media. Abusers now lash out without facing their victims or even knowing them. Criticism lies, mocking, and humiliation travel at the speed of light these days, letting everyone in your universe read toxic comments about you—often before you learn about them. That’s why numerous organizations have stepped up to fight this critical issue. National Anti-Bullying Month occurs every October to teach people of all ages the warning signs, share combat techniques, and underscore the seriousness of rising attacks.
Just how common is online bullying, also known as cyberbullying? In 2018, a Pew Research Center study* reported that 85% of all teens used social media. Their research also revealed that 59% of all young internet users stated they had experienced bullying online. That’s three out of five youngsters. These victims are all around us. While estimates aren’t uniform, experts agree that the damage of online harassment is far-reaching and, all too often, can turn deadly. Reports of suicide linked to cyberbullying are tragic but true. In less severe but still traumatizing cases, shattered self-esteem is a common result. Targets of bullying also become more prone to other types of abuse in the future.
The biggest challenge is often discovering abuse. You must expose it to combat it, yet kids rarely bring problems to adults promptly.
Who’s the bully?
Young individuals are most vulnerable because they lack experience in handling challenging situations but there’s no single demographic responsible for this toxic behavior. The perpetrator could be male or female, child or parent, teacher or coach, or another adult such as a security guard at school or a janitor. Abuse takes many forms: spreading false rumors, badgering, stalking, physical threats, or sharing of explicit images. Death threats are not uncommon. While some adults might downplay many categories as harmless, this mental distress or harassment is genuine abuse.
The list includes:
- Sending unsolicited, explicit images—which 1 in 3 teens has experienced
- Circulating unflattering photos of an acquaintance
- Posing as someone else online to cause harm
- Accessing an individual’s social media accounts to post damaging texts.
If an individual bent on harm can imagine it, social media can facilitate it, and major trauma generally results.
Trolls are lurking
You’ve probably heard of social posts that go “viral.” To many, it means people are following or sharing a certain topic, but to the individual at the center of that post or video, “viral” events dish up instant fame or enduring shame. Understanding the risks could help you take proactive measures to keep your family’s viral moments positive.
Social media is no longer solely for amusement or catching up with friends either; many individuals use these sites to advance their careers and work interests. Others are trolls who amuse themselves by attacking regular users.
Calculating damage done
Face-to-face bullying might result in a broken arm or a dislocated shoulder. Cyberbullying leaves massive destruction that’s usually invisible but just as damaging. Victims report they later suffered alcohol or drug abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, panic, or depression. Classmates are the number one group of abusers, and the harm they cause can last decades. Adults in a position of trust can inflict even more significant injury. School or sports teams can turn toxic; coaches, teachers, or team managers must watch for ostracism and other bullying tactics, then root them out to guarantee team events remain inclusive, kind, and educational.
A new deterrent
Cyberbullying can be hard to spot because it happens on the web and perpetrators can hide behind anonymous accounts and profiles, making it hard to know if your child is being bullied online. IDShield can help protect against cyberbullying by monitoring the social media accounts of you and your children. Furthermore, we offer one-on-one consultation to help you communicate with local authorities, school administrators, and counseling services to help stop abuse and minimize damage.
Additionally, IDShield protects your privacy by watching over your Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts to see if images or posts might be offensive or damaging to your reputation.
The battle against bullying starts at home. Ideally, your youngster needs rules before taking on the responsibility of a smartphone or social media account. Remember, if you pay the bills, you can make the rules, and it is never too late to start a discussion.
Consider these possibilities:
- Your child agrees not to send mean or hurtful comments to anyone.
- Your child pledges to tell an adult about any bullying or uncomfortable interactions.
- The parent or adult retains access to any social media account.
- Your child will take screenshots of offensive posts and show them to you ASAP.
- They won’t share passwords outside of the immediate family.
- Your family will discuss the damage that attacks can do to a victim in detail.
- Enabling privacy settings to keep most social media posts non-public.
It may seem strict but ask your phone carrier or internet provider about the option of turning off a child’s phone or internet for rule violations. Wise parents know that nothing reinforces good behavior quite as fast as this type of natural consequence. This October seize the opportunity to teach anti-bullying tactics to your family and friends. Teach your child how to make a new friend so that newcomers never feel ostracized. Roleplay ways to create inclusion so they’ll learn how to battle exclusion. The more you talk about inclusion and pushing back against bullies, the more likely your child will seek your help and not remain a silent, suffering victim.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.
*“A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of Cyberbullying.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. September 27, 2018.