According to stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets”. But in today’s technologically-centered society, that could mean… well, anything.
To help make sense of it all, here are some of the different mediums cyberbullying can appear through within your child’s world of technology.
1. Text Messages
With the ability to contact anyone in the world in a matter of seconds and receive instant responses, texting has quickly become the favorable communication method among younger generations. The huge perk of texting is that it is not time consuming; instead of requiring face-to-face or vocal interaction, a sender can type his or her message in under 30 seconds and off it goes! However, instantaneous messaging and a lack of in-person interactions are the two main reasons why texting is such a common harbor for cyberbullying. Behind the barrier of a screen, children feel safer to say whatever they want to, especially when it comes to hurting another person. The tone of a message is also hard to tell solely over text, so one can receive a text, read it, and misinterpret it as bullying, even if it was not meant to be.
2. Social Media
Take everything that is written above about texting and multiply it by thousands. That is what cyberbullying on social media is like. Users can use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat to broadcast their thoughts about anything – including other people – not only to a pre-determined audience of followers, but to anyone on the Internet. Additionally, most social media platforms have a direct messaging feature built into them, so cyberbullies can harass a user both by projecting public opinions and by directly messaging them. The most dangerous part of social media is that it is hard to escape; one comment that one person makes can spread like wildfire and then suddenly everyone knows what has been said. Even if the original post gets deleted, there are still screenshots that can circulate not through social media and text messages.
Email is less common these days, especially as a communication method among tweens, but it still provides an opportunity for cyberbullies to take advantage of. As with texting, email composers do not have to interact face-to- face with their email recipients, so the same rules apply in tone misunderstandings and/or in the opportunity to say harmful things. Also, the sending of multiple emails can lead to one’s inbox just being flooded with harassing messages. And finally – it is extremely easy for bullies to hide their identities by using email.
Parents should not be overly paranoid about cyberbullying, but should avoid being naïve either. You can take precautions by discussing with your child what cyberbullying is and where it can occur so that he or she is aware of the possibilities and how to react in such situations.