Cyberbullying: A Digital Topic to Talk About with Your Teen

In my opinion there are three important digital topics to talk about with your child.

1. Cyberbullying (Today’s post)
2. Sexting (The next post)
3. Posting (The next, next post)

Cyberbullying is the use of any form of electronic media to tease, harass, threaten, embarrass, intimidate or humiliate another person online. The old-school definition of bullying included many of the same words: “tease,” “harass,” “threaten” and “humiliate.”

The old-school definition also included the bully being present when the harassment was taking place. Usually, a bully was larger and stronger than other kids (think David and Goliath), just in case the bully had to back up his or her intimidating tactics. But new-school bullying––cyberbullying––is much different, and it’s getting worse:

Cyber Bullying is becoming more and more prevalent. From kids getting together on Facebook to ‘kick a ginger,’ to bullies posting videos of their attacks, we have a whole new world of brutality for kids to worry about. (4)

Anyone can be a victim of cyberbullying, but students are the most frequent targets. “From fake Facebook pages to the posting of embarrassing videos and photos, more than 20 percent of today’s U.S. students age 10 to 18 report being a victim of cyber bullying.” (5)

Today’s cyberbullies can hide behind a mask of obscurity while conducting attacks on their victims. Their obscurity often makes them harder to find. Some states no longer tolerate online harassment and have passed or are working on passing laws to arrest and prosecute cyberbullies.

Cyberbullying laws vary from state to state. One of the most stringent states in the country is Missouri:

The suicide of a 13-year old girl who was the victim of an Internet hoax greatly raised the awareness of cyberbullying and its consequences in the state of Missouri. Governor Matt Blunt went so far as to create a task force whose sole purpose was to study and create laws regarding cyberbullying. As a result, the Internet Harassment Task Force now stands as a shining example for other states around the country. Missouri has also toughened their laws on the matter, upgrading cyber-harassment from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony. (6)

Cyberbullying may occasionally get passed off as a joke. Taking an embarrassing picture of someone and posting it, or writing a few funny remarks to someone or about someone may not be illegal but could be inappropriate. Help your kids to be mindful of others’ feelings. Scripture tells us, “Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, GOD’S WORD).

Here are three things you can do if your child has been cyberbullied:

1. Record it.
Tell your child to record the bullying  but not to retaliate. Take a screen shot of the computer screen (or cellphone screen), and document the date and time and who the person is, if you know him or her.

2. Report it.
If the bullying happened on a social media site, then let that site know what has happened and the content that was displayed. If the bullying is by phone, tell the cell phone company. If your child’s peers at school are doing the bullying, report it to the school’s administration. If  the bullying includes a threat of violence, sexually explicit content, or stalking, then law enforcement officers need to be informed.

3. Research it.
Know the cyberbullying laws in your state. Find out what the bullying prevention policy is in your child’s school.

There are several websites that can give us insight and direction as parents. Here are a two that are worth exploring:
A site that explains what cyberbullying is, how to prevent it, how to report it, and what the laws are in each state. Currently, there are no federal laws that directly address cyberbullying.
Online resource for parents and teens.
This site is filled with information and advice for parents and educators on cyberbullying, including how to teach children ages 2–17 about cyberbullying. The site also offers a free cyberbullying tool kit to help educators and schools.

Question: Have you talked to your child about cyberbullying? What was their response?

Photo Image ID: 134867027 Copyright: fasphotographic

(4) - Minara El-Rahman, “Cyberbullying: A Rundown of Cyberbullying Laws,” FindLaw, January 27, 2010. bullying-suicide-shows-need-for-cyber bullying-laws.html (accessed June 2013).

(5) - “Prevent Your Child from Being a Victim of Cyberbullying.” Marina Times, vol. 28, no. 9, September 2011. (accessed August 2012).

(6) - Mahdieh Darehzereshki, “Cyber Bullying State Laws and Policies,” Cyberbullying, May 26, 2010. (accessed June 2013).