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Signs of Cyberbullying

This article explains to caregivers the essential information about cyberbullying and the actions needed to stay safe.

Cyberbullying is harmful and dangerous, and we should all be aware! 5-minute read to learn what 60% of adolescents and youth don’t know! From my long-term work with adolescents and youth, I’ve noticed that these age groups in our communities are facing different kind of problems and cyberbullying is one of the most major and pressing problems that need a solution.

Bullying can be very visible and/or invisible. Visible such as physical aggression and violence. Invisible such as cyberbullying where others can’t see it (especially parents and those who can protect us). Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology to send mean, threatening and/or embarrassing messages to/about a person.

The statistics

The world today has become be more aware of this issue, we have more accurate statistics published that make us understand the widespread of cyberbullying among our teenagers. Below are some disturbing cyberbullying statistics concerning the global community:

  • Only 38% of cyberbullying victims are willing to admit it to their parents.
  • 34% of kids in the US have experienced cyberbullying at least once.
  • Over 80% of children own a mobile phone and have multiple social network accounts.
  • 66% of female victims have feelings of powerlessness because of cyberbullying.

From my personal experience, I can say that teenagers choose not to talk about this subject, even with their parents. It’s a sensitive subject and most of young people aren’t aware of it.

The first basic step

is to start asking ourselves questions to clarify our situation and to do a self-test to check if we have symptoms or behaviors that we don’t understand. You can start with the following nine highly important questions. Be as honest as much as you can:

  1. Has anyone ever called you a name through social media and chatting groups?
  2. Has anyone ever told you that you can’t be friends with or rejected your friend request for example?
  3. Has anyone ever harassed or threatened you through messages and emails?
  4. Was someone mean to you because of how you look in your photos or what you are posting?
  5. Has anyone used your personal information (name, photos, age, etc...) as their personal identity?
  6. Has anyone posted or disseminated information about you without mentioning your name, but it was oriented toward you?
  7. Did you tell anyone about any of these incidents? Why or why not?
  8. Do you know friends or others from your entourage being cyberbullied or exposed to the incidents above? 
  9. Have you ever applied the above to someone else?

If you see yourself subject to one or several of the situations above, tell someone you trust; parents, teacher, coach, psychologist or others. 

Moreover, we’re going to discuss in this article different methodologies of cyberbullying and how children can empower themselves against it. First, we’ll list key messages for teens and parents to keep in mind, that will affect our judgment on cyberbullying.

Key messages to remember!
  • Bullying is neither biological nor unavoidable.
  • Bullying is learned, harmful and controllable.
  • Bullying spreads if supported or unchecked.
  • Bullying involves everyone: bullies, victims and bystanders.
  • Bullying can be effectively stopped or entirely prevented.

All the key messages are equally important; however, more information is highly needed nowadays in our digital world. As we know, while there are several different ways kids are bullying others online, most of it falls into four categories.

Here are four of the most common methods of cyberbullying:
1. Harassing Someone
  • Using text messaging, instant messaging and email to harass, threaten or embarrass the victim such as posting rumors, threats or embarrassing information or sexting on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Developing a website with information that is humiliating, embarrassing or insulting for the victim.
  • Spreading rumors, lies or gossip about the victim online through websites or blogs.
2. Impersonating Someone
  • Developing a profile identical to the victim’s profile or by stealing the victim’s password, then posting rude or hurtful remarks, chatting with other people and changing the target’s online profile to include sexual, racist or other inappropriate things, while pretending to be the victim in order to offend and anger the victim’s friends or acquaintances.
  • Cat fishing by pretending to be someone else in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship.
3. Using Photographs
  • Threatening to share embarrassing photos as a way of controlling or blackmailing the victim.
  • Posting nude pictures on photo sharing sites for anyone on the Internet to view and download.
4. Engaging in Sub tweeting or Vague booking
  • Posting tweets or Facebook posts that never mention the victim's name. Yet the victim, the bully and often a larger audience know who the posts are referencing.

Don’t limit yourself to the above methodologies. We’re living in rapid changing times & technologies and new ways of bullying will rise to the surface. The most important step is to understand bullying, its effects on yourself and how to be empowered.

Now, since we’re aware of our situation and have identified the methodologies of cyber bullying, this will put us on a certain path and will give us a clearer mind to move forward and empower ourselves.

Always empower yourself

Positive self-affirmation for the child to repeat for direct empowerment or as a group agreement among your closest friends:

I promise myself to…
  • Seek help when I am bullied, or I feel like I might be bullied.
  • NOT to stay silent and suffer in silent and in fear.
  • Tell someone I trust: an adult, a coach, a teacher, a friend or anyone else.
  • Express my feelings because I have the right to.
No Bullying Bystander: I promise to…
  • Stop a hurtful rumor (either online/ offline whenever I can).
  • Tell an adult when I know of a plan to harass others.
  • NOT be a bullying bystander:  When I know of bullying, I’ll act and tell someone.

If we know of any friend acting as a cyberbully, talk to them in private in an empathetic way, stand up for your own principles and let them know it's not OK. Explain to your friend that bullying can have serious consequences for the bully, for those being bullied and even for bystanders like you and your friends.

The Golden Rule: I promise to…
  • Respect all peers.
  • Respect other peers’ belongings, privacy, etc.…
  • Treat others the way I want to be treated.
  • Be proud of who you are.
  • Don’t blame yourself.
  • Be assertive.
  • Discuss it with friends and get help from them. 
  • Be mindful of your own behavior and learn to deal with stress.
  • Ignore it. Don't let the bully know that you’re upset. 
  • Talk to a trusted person. 
  • Talk to your parents. 
  • Remember--It's OK to let someone know what's happening.

Do this test, write it and hang it in your room or put it in your pocket, wherever you see suitable and repeat it to yourself whenever needed.

What is the last step for us?

Since we’re aware of ourselves and have identified the methodologies and had ourselves empowered, we should learn how to react to cyberbullying since there will be next times where we will be exposed to cyberbullying or directly cyberbullied:

  1. Ignore: Don’t respond to “minor teasing or name calling” if they can be avoided. Bullies are encouraged when seeing a reaction.
  2. Record: Keep a record of bullying messages.
  3. Reach out: Your parents, a favorite teacher, school administrators, counselors.
  4. Cut off the bullies: block their phone number, their Facebook and Instagram accounts and others so you no longer receive their calls or texts. If, for some reason, it’s not possible to block them, you can always screen their calls and delete their messages without opening them.
  5. Report: Report cyberbullying incidents to the sites, the internet service provider, the cellphone service provider or the content provider.

In a nutshell, what was mentioned above is the essential information we need to know about cyberbullying and the actions we need to take to stay safe and keep the ones we care about safe as well.

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5 minutes