Bullying has been around for ages, and has long been associated with the image of a kid who pushes other kids around at school and steals their lunch money. However, there’s a new type of bullying that may be even more damaging: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is any type of bullying that uses social media, text messages, and websites to harass someone.

Examples of cyberbullying include the following:
  • Sending offensive text messages or emails
  • Posting rumors or embarrassing photos on social media
  • Texting photos of a person without his or her consent
  • Creating a hostile environment in an online chatroom or game

Although there may not be any black eyes or scraped knees for their victims, cyberbullies can be much more harmful than traditional bullies.

Here are a few disturbing facts about cyberbullying:
  • Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach someone even when he or she is alone.
  • Since cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly through technology, it can be difficult to trace the source. Furthermore, it is difficult to get rid of hurtful messages and images once they’re posted online.
  • Children who are cyberbullied are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, skip school receive poor grades and have low self-esteem.

It’s important to note that social media and the internet can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family or helping students with schoolwork. It isn’t the methods that are to blame—they simply make bullying easier because the bully can use the technology as a shield.

While cyberbullying can occur to people of any age, it can be particularly troubling if it is happening to your child.

The good news is that there are ways to prevent it, such as the following:
  • Talk to children about cyber bullying and explain its consequences.
  • Encourage children to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring.
  • Stress to children the importance of not sharing anything that they would not want to be made public.
  • Remind children that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are.
  • Wait until your child is old enough to show responsibility before allowing him or her to own a cell phone and social media accounts and require parental access to the accounts.
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