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Bullying has been a problem within our school systems for years, and while it may have gotten better thanks to anti-bullying initiatives, it has unfortunately migrated over to the digital world as cyberbullying. As a parent, you’re probably concerned about your teen online, here is how to prevent cyberbullying and keep them safe.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that targets an individual or individuals online through harassment and aggressive slander, and can happen anywhere online. While the victims of cyberbullying cannot be physically harmed online, they do go through the same emotional traumas that victims of bullying go through in real life.

Even worse victims of cyberbullying can also become victims of stalking, doxxing (leaking of personal information online through hacking or other means), swatting (causing a SWAT team to go to a victim’s home), blackmail (often includes leaked private pictures), cyber attacks, and physical threats which can indeed harm them or their families in real life.

People of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds can become a victim of cyberbullying if they have an online presence. However, it is a lot more common among teens and young adults, and that’s why it is incredibly important to be aware of what is going on, and understand how to prevent cyberbullying in the first place.

Find out where your teen actually is online.

Most parents may turn to Facebook to monitor their teen’s online activity, but many parents don’t realize that teens aren’t as active on it as older users are.

Currently, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp are just a few of the social networks teens are using to stay connected today. Instagram tops the list of common places for teens to share media and unfortunately, also tops the list of places where cyberbullying commonly occurs.

Teens are aware of what they’re doing.

70% of young adults admit to cyberbullying one another online, and while they may be aware of what they are doing, they may not understand the consequences to their actions.

Not only can the victims of cyberbullying develop a variety of mental health issues, but the perpetrators can also face legal action. Cyberbullying laws vary from state to state, but penetalies often include school suspension, heavy fines, and jail time.

Be aware of anonymous apps.

Cyberbullying doesn’t just occur on social media, in fact apps where users can join and post anonymously have become popular over the years, and are notorious spots for users to cyberbully each other online.

That’s not to say every user is spreading toxic rumors, threats, and abusive content through apps like Whisper or After School. In fact, many teens find these apps to be a therapeutic way to share their worries or thoughts without judgment. However, apps that allow users to remain anonymous have a dark side.

Yik Yak for example, was a popular anonymous app that came under fire a few years ago due to serious threats from users including violence, harassment, hate speech, and even terrorism. This app, and many others, have since shut down due to the controversy surrounding the anonymous interfaces, but that’s not to say that anonymous apps aren’t inaccessible to teens and young adults.

If you’re wondering how to prevent cyberbullying on these apps, do some research on what your teen is using, and make the right decision to protect your family.          

Educate the youth in your community.

The best way to deal with cyberbullying is by educating our youth about the negative effects of cyberbullying.

First, it’s important to understand why teens often cyberbully each other online:

  • Peer pressure- in an effort to fit in with a group at school, teens may target someone online similar to targeting someone in real life.
  • Spite- teens may cyberbully or defame another peer out of spite or jealousy. Often this occurs due to relationships or rumors.
  • Feeling invincible- teens may feel because what they’re doing is online, they won’t be caught.
  • Lack of empathy- some teens may not even fully understand that their words can and do hurt. What may seem like a simple joke to them, can turn into a world of pain for someone else. Additionally, since there is no real face to face communication, perpetrators cannot physically see the emotional distress they cause others online.
  • Power/ control- often if a teen feels powerless or stuck in a poor situation at school or home they try to regain a sense of power by belittling or verbally attacking others online.
  • Boredom- unfortunately, when teens are bored they may use their energy in a negative way to have fun. They want something to do and talk about, and for some this is the easiest way to get excitement.  

Work together with your school officials and those in your community to provide a safe space for teens to communicate openly to trusted adults. Often victims of cyberbullying may be afraid to tell a trusted adult about their problems, and may not have the support they need at home.

Teens are exposed to a lot of content daily on their phones, tablets, and other smart devices. Have an open discussion to them about cyberbullying, and if they do see something online about themselves or another peer remind them to bring it to your attention. This way it can be reported to the proper authorities, and potentially even save a life.

At Paradiso Insurance, we understand that our youth is the future, and we hope you understand how to prevent cyberbullying. Before you know it, the school year will be ending soon, so click the button below to learn how you can keep your teen safe and responsible all summer long.