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October is National Bully Prevention Month – What is Cyberbullying?

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In today’s world, many youth don’t think before posting an offensive comment, inappropriate picture, or incendiary remark.  How common is it?  In a nationally-representative study of 2,500 middle and high school students in 2021, the Cyberbullying Resource Center found:

  • 45.5% had been cyberbullied during their lifetime
  • 23.2% had been cyberbullied in the previous 30 days
  • 14.4% admitted to cyberbullying others during their lifetime
  • 4.9% admitted to cyberbullying others in the previous 30 days

What is Cyberbullying?

The Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberbullying as”willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (from Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard:  Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying).

  • Willfull – Deliberate and NOT accidental
  • Repeated – Pattern of behavior and not a one-time event
  • Harm – Target must feel that they have been hurt.
  • Electronic Devices – Use of electronic devices or virtual spaces differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying

Bullying vs Cyberbullying

  • Hurtful behavior is hurtful behavior.
  • Bullying is repetitive and often involves an (unhealthy) relationship between the parties involved
  • Targets of bullying often dread going to school or to social events as they are afraid of what the other person may do.
  • Traditional bullying takes place in a shared physical space.
  • Cyberbullying is done through electronic devices and/or virtual spaces where the aggressor is physically remote from the target.
  • Cyberbullies may not realize that they are harming the target.
  • Targets of cyberbullying don’t necessarily know that they have been bullied.
  • Cyberbullying may consist of a single or multiple incidences.
    • A single online post may be linked, liked, shared, and commented on by a limitless number of people over a long period of time

Steps to Take – Parents

  • Develop open lines of communication
  • Discuss appropriate online & offline behaviors
  • Build resiliency (the skill to bounce back after adversity)
  • Develop a contract for technology use with responsibilities and consequences
  • Oversee child behavior – increasing/decreasing oversight as youth show more/less responsible behavior
  • Cultivate empathy by putting youth in positions that make them uncomfortable and show the struggles of others

Steps to Take – Schools

  • Educate communities on bullying and cyberbullying
  • Discuss, reinforce and model appropriate online behaviors
  • Post reminders throughout physical an virtual spaces on acceptable behaviors
  • Develop safe and respectful school atmosphere
  • Encourage students to actively stand-up

Steps to Take – Students

  • Develop a positive relationship with an adult
  • Avoid and ignore minor teasing or name calling
  • Use and adjust privacy settings or all devices and platforms
  • Show parents the platforms they use and why, discuss together strategies to stay safe
  • Pause before posting or sharing
  • Stand-up to poor behavior and don’t forward, laugh, or condone any negative act just to fit in

How to Develop Resiliency?

  • Build positive self-esteem
  • Reinforce positive vs self-defeating thoughts after experiencing bullying
  • Experience negative situations and how to push through, rather than avoid all adversity
  • Use role-playing scenarios to prepare in advance
  • Identify individuals in books, movies, and in history that overcame bullying

Sources:

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2021). Cyberbullying Identification, Prevention, and Response. Cyberbullying Research Center (cyberbullying.org). 

  • Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. is a professor at Florida Atlantic University and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • The Cyberbullying Research Center (cyberbullying.org) provides the latest research, down- loadable fact sheets and top ten tip sheets, project-based learning ideas, policy and program- ming guidance, interactive maps and activities, and a wealth of other resources to promote the positive use of social media, phones, gaming platforms, and more.

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