How to Prevent and Stop Cruel Cyberbullying

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In January of this year, two 12-year-olds (one boy and one girl) in Florida were arrested due to cyberbullying that was so severe that it pushed a fellow middle-school student into committing suicide. They admitted to spreading false rumors about the girl, calling her names, and threatening to spread her personal information. What is even more shocking is that the young boy taunted the troubled girl to “just do it” in a video chat after she showed him the marks she had from a failed attempt to hang herself. Soon after, she was found dead, hanging by a dog leash in her closet.

Cyberbullying is typically done by at least one minor to another minor. It can deeply affect these young individuals because they are very impressionable as they grow in their cognitive and social development, therefore, they are more likely to crumble under the harshness of life. Bullying, personally or cyberly, doesn’t always lead to suicide, but it often causes severe trauma.

About Cyberbullying

These days, kids are using a variety of social media applications. Stopbullying.gov currently has a list of 18, but the list is not exhaustive. Other ways that kids are connecting is through usual sources such as text messages, instant messages, and email. Roughly 72% of kids are also at risk as they take part in online gaming. For many kids, all of these options simply offer a fun way to pass the time and connect with other people that they can relate to, but when things get ugly, it can go from one mean comment to devastating 24-hour abuse very quickly.

The cruel treatment snowballs rapidly into a cruel public display of harassment that can make the child feel virtually helpless. As the victim is bombarded with mocking images and hateful messages posted from what can seem like almost every direction, including anonymous sources, and as the number of spectators grows, children are pushed into life-threatening mental states right under their parents’ noses.

How Can I Tell if My Child is Being Bullied?

Here are some important signs to look for according to Stopbullying.gov and the Megan Meier Foundation, a foundation that has been established by the mother of 13-year-old Megan Meier. The young girl committed suicide after vile cyberbullying that began after the mother of one of her friends opened a fake MySpace account.

  1. Has your child been acting more on edge or depressed?
  2. Are they withdrawing from their usual social life?
  3. Are they less engaged in school?
  4. Do they seem to avoid using their phone, tablet, or computer more than before?
  5. Do they seem to suddenly be using their phone, tablet, or computer much more than before?
  6. Are they acting secretive about their phone, maybe even hiding the screen when people are around?
  7. When they get a text, do they seem to have strong emotional responses, particularly anxiety, sadness, fear, or anger?
  8. Are they creating a new social media account or several?
  9. Has their sleeping behavior changed in any noticeable way?

What Can Be Done About Cyberbullying?

PREVENTION: The first line of defense is to put vital measures in place to help prevent it from happening to begin with. This day-in-age, private information is easily accessed and shareable through a variety of means.

Parents should:

  • Continuously foster a trusting and open relationship with their kids so that children are not afraid to talk to them about hurtful and explicit comments that they might receive from someone.
  • Know what online activities their children are involved in and take the time to learn about it. By doing so, they are more able to determine what risks to protect the child from. For example, some of these applications allow the child to talk to anyone, but there is no way that a parent will see this on any kind of call log.
  • Set parental controls. Parental controls are not a waste of time. They may be frustrating, but protecting your children is well worth it.
  • Talk to their kids about the importance of good judgment when it comes to what is ok to post. Some posts can seriously backfire if they were found by malicious individuals. It is a good idea to set some ground rules regarding what is acceptable to post and what isn’t.
  • Talk to their kids about the importance of privacy settings. They should also inform their children about basic internet safety such as complex passwords, acceptable usernames, and unsolicited material.
  • Discuss the importance of “friending” only people they know well in real life. It is simply too easy for people to hide behind a fake picture and screen name, and once people are allowed in as their “friend” they are allowed access to all kinds of information about the child.
  • If their child spends lots of time playing online games, occasionally observe or spend time playing the game with their child to keep tabs on the safety of the gaming environment they are playing in.
  • Limit their child’s time on social media and gaming sites.
  • Monitor their children’s accounts. It helps to set this rule with your kids from the get-go so that they understand that this is a condition for them getting access to social media and/or online gaming.
  • Discuss the potential of cyberbullying with them and what they can do if it happens to them.

RECLAMATION: If the bullying is already occurring, it could be small and fizzle out, or it could blow up into a terrible tragedy where the child is likely to feel trapped. It is important for parents to ensure that the the social media attacks are snuffed out as soon as possible. The effects of cyberbullying can be extremely destructive to children, so every second counts.

  1. Talk to your kids about what has been happening.
  2. Review all potentially incriminating material that your child has posted on all social media platforms and remove it. If you must, you can hide it, but removing is recommended.
  3. Learn what each social media sites’ terms and conditions are regarding appropriate behavior and their methods for reporting.
  4. Report the behavior to the social media sites. Report to the school, too, if it is possible.
  5. Keep all evidence of the bullying with notes of when it happened plus a description of the incident.
  6. Friends and family can counteract the negativity by posting positive comments. Do not do this until after the problem has been reported.
  7. Parents can also address the problem with the individuals that are bullying their child through the social media app.
  8. Block all of the bullies.
  9. Your child may need professional counseling to overcome the trauma.

When to Involve Law Enforcement

All bullying is unacceptable, but when it reaches certain levels, it’s time to get the police involved. Call the police if:

  • There are violent threats
  • There are explicit messages or photos
  • Your child is being stalked
  • Your child is being victimized in a hate crime

With that said, in order to get the full picture, you need to look into the specific laws and policies that your state has about bullying. There are no federal laws at this time.

Hold Them Accountable

If your child has been through severe trauma, it is possible that they have needed to visit with a mental health professional or even stay at a facility for a period of time. And if they are still struggling to overcome what has happened to them, then they might need help for years to come. Bullies and their parents must be held accountable for the darkness that was imposed upon your child. Furthermore, negligent and indifferent school districts can be sued if they didn’t take the necessary action to protect your child from bullying. An anti-bullying policy is nice, but schools must put the policy into practice

Bullying is a very serious problem, and if your child was physically injured or pushed to commit suicide, it is time for justice to be served. Find a qualified and dedicated education law attorney in your area today.  

https://www.stopbullying.gov/
http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/parents/155?task=view
https://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/cyberbullying-social-media.html

 

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