Bullying used to be fairly easy to spot: it was the use of force (or the threat of force) to make someone do something. For my generation being bullied meant some kid bigger than you was going to hit you if you didn’t hand over your lunch money. Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, had a running gag about “Moe” the dimwitted but exceptionally large student who was constantly bullying Calvin.
Name calling or belittling was never considered appropriate behavior, it just wasn’t recognized as rising to the level of bullying.
The definition has broadened over the years. We now recognize an emotional component to bullying. AAMFT defines bullying as “a set of behaviors that intentionally cause harm to another person”.
Cyberbullying covers every aspect of “intentionally causing harm”. From belittling and demeaning words to threats of harm the next time a child goes to school.
Five Facts about CyberBullying1
1. Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
2. Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyberbullying.
3. 90% of teens who have seen social media bullying say they have ignored it.
4. Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
5. Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims AND perpetrators of cyberbullying.
What to do about Cyberbullying?
1. Provide a safe environment. Parents can’t stop other people’s kids from being bullies. Unless your child is the bully, there is probably nothing you can do to change fact number 1 above. What you can do is work on providing the kind of family atmosphere where your child is the 1 in 10 who will inform an adult (see number 4 above) if they are the target of cyberbullying.
2. Monitor internet and phone use. Monitoring your child or teen’s internet and phone is not invading their privacy. It is simply being an involved parent. The chief complaint I hear from parents is that they are not “computer savvy”. That really can’t be an excuse. Talk with your internet provider, phone service, and tech-savvy friends so you can learn to monitor your child’s screen time.
3. Don’t respond to bullies. There are people who just like to be mean. I know that’s not a politically correct thing to say, but it appears to be true. Ignore them and they will most often move on to somebody else.
4. The best defense? A positive self esteem. There is some controversy over what causes bullying but there is virtually no controversy over who they pick to bully. Bully’s have an uncanny ability to find the kids who are have poor social skills and a low self esteem. The best way to bully proof your child or teen is to help them improve both their social skills and self esteem.
5. Don’t create victims. Once upon a time we taught children that words only had power over us if we let them. Remember the old maxim about the power of words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”? Words do hurt… until we learn to view a bully’s words for what they are: untruths designed to do harm spoken by someone unworthy of our respect.
If your child or teen is experiencing cyberbulling, I can help. And if it turns out your child is a bully I can help with that also. Contact me to set an appointment today.