Cyberbullying ~ It's Not Just Tweens and Teens

She was asked to share a topless photo on Snapchat. Three close friends told her to ignore the request. Yet, the requests kept coming from the hot new guy at the gym. And her workout friends, told her to “show it off” and that it was all part of the new “dating game”.
After much angst, she decided not to send a photo. Rather, she sent a heartfelt message about how much she would like to have a date to get to know him and didn’t want to send that kind of photo. The guy took a screenshot of the message and used it to torment her for days on Instagram, Snapchat, and on Facebook group texts. The women who encouraged her to send the photos “liked” the tormented posts. The stress and anxiety of the situation caused headaches, stomachaches, embarrassment and anxiety. Not to mention, she felt completely socially isolated.

Many believe this story only happens in high school among teenagers. However, with the constant use of digital devices by all ages, cyberbullying does not discriminate. Headlines about cyberbullying are overwhelming at best and can leave all ages feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the cyber world.

Can cyberbullying really be prevented in the cyber world? According to the latest research from the Pew Research Center, 92% of teens go online daily and 24% of teens are online “almost constantly” while 90% of adults go online daily, yet only 12% are “constantly online (Lenhart, 2015).

What really is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the repetitive digital harassment or digital abuse that takes place through electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets or computers. It happens via email, social media, text messaging apps, chat forums and gaming systems.
Cyberbullying may include the following:
• Sharing, sending or posting hurtful, harmful negative or false information or content about an identifiable person.
• Sharing photos or screenshots with the intent to ridicule, humiliate or embarrass an identifiable person.
• Sharing non-consented personal information with the sole intent to humiliate or injure an identifiable personal or professional reputation.

Due to the worldwide nature of social media and the ability to share digital information in a nano second that has no cultural or geographical borders, cyberbullying has ginormous reach. Life changing content can easily be shared before the victim is even aware, much less able to seek assistance. Additionally, cyber transgressions of any kind are particularly difficult to manage because most things posted online are screen shot permanent, even when deleted by the poster.

Digital Devices Do Not Discriminate. Anyone using the world wide web to communicate, research, share content, or play video games can be a victim of cyberbullying and other cyber transgressions.Click To Tweet

Research shows that cyberbullying on social media is linked to depression in both teenagers and young adults. It’s essential that all digital device users remain engaged with both their family members and their peers and discuss ways to seek help.

How to deal with Cyberbullying

Do not Judge: Teenagers need parents to listen without judgement. Adults need friends and colleagues to listen without judgement. Nobody wants their parents or significant others to call schools or employment straight away. The first step is to listen and ask to follow up questions to understand the scope of the cyber transgression.Unconditional support is key. If you listen, empathize and work as a team, your family, friends or colleagues will continue to ask your assistance.

Respond thoughtfully {if you must respond}: Resist the urge to blast concerns or revenge on your own social media channels. This will help no one. Remember, most bullies are fishing. If you respond, you have just taken the bait!

Document everything: Take screenshots of any thing you deem a cyber transgression. Documents everything and anything. Sometimes stories lack details when people are questioned for details.

Work to formulate a plan: If a teen needs help, brainstorm possible solutions with the child, including the best point person at the school. If the cyberbullying is taking place at work or other, problem solve the best point person. Working together with others is the key to swift and positive resolution.

Use the tools within the apps: It can never hurt to review friends, connections & digital teammates. Unfriend, block, delete and quit teams that are not positive and productive to your daily living. Most all social media platforms and video games have methods to report fake accounts or inappropriate content.

And finally, take control of your cyber world. And help others do the same. Phones and computers must have input to give output. Choose wisely. If we empower ourselves and our children to help others when victimization occurs, we can begin to make a difference with harmful cyber behaviors that are all to common in the cyber world.
There are many positive benefits of traveling the cyber highway. Just as with the asphalt highway, there is litter, sign pollution and harmful drivers. Be conscientious and take charge of your world-wide-web travels and you will enjoy a beautiful, safe and educational journey.

 

Reference
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media, and technology: Overview 2015. Retrieved
from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-
2015/on_7/6/2015.

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