In as much as technology has brought a wide array of benefits to various spheres of life, we can’t afford to overlook its negative side. One of the most serious concerns is cyber bullying which seems to have the most impact on teenagers.
A research survey done in April 2018 by PEW Research Centre shows that 59% of the teenagers in the United States have been cyberbullied at least once in the past. According to the survey, the most common form of teen cyberbullying is name-calling, followed by the spreading of false rumors, stalking and physical threats. Cyberbullying isn’t limited to teens in the U.S; every teenager who has internet access can be a victim, irrespective of his/her location. It is an international public health issue among adolescents.
As a parent, friend or a relative to a teenager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that he/she doesn’t suffer the effects of the form of violence.
So, what’s cyberbullying?
You can’t fight something that you don’t know. So, fast-forward, it’s important for you to understand what cyberbullying entails. Well, cyberbullying is basically the use of digital devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets to harass, threaten, humiliate, or natively target another person.
This form of violence takes place in digital platforms such as social media pages and groups, online forums and gaming platforms where people can participate in or share/view content. It includes various activities such as sending, posting, or sharing undesirable, harmful, untrue, or cruel content about another person. Sharing, sending and posting of personal or private information about another person which could make him/her feel embarrassed or humiliated is also treated as cyberbullying.
Some of the places where teenagers are most likely to experience cyberbullying include:
- Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as Snapchat.
- Phone text messages (SMS)
- App, social media, email provider or device instant messages
Effects of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have various adverse effects on an adolescent including:
- Depression symptoms
- Reduced self-esteem and self-confidence
- Heightened stress and anxiety
- Reduced attentiveness
- Social isolation feeling
- Regular failure to attend school
- Degraded school performance
- Self-destructive behavior, including suicide (in extreme cases)
- Shame feelings
- Disrupted sleep
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches and muscle aches
- Substance abuse
When it comes to teenagers who are cyber-bullies, they too are also adversely affected by this wicked act. For instance, the more they engage in cyberbullying, they kind of lose part of their conscience and become more rogue. As such, they are highly likely to engage in other risky behaviors which they might carry on with even in their adulthood. Some of the other bad behaviors they are likely to engage include:
- Abuse of drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, bhang and nicotine
- Early sexual activities
- Property vandalism
- Regular failure to attend school or dropping out
- Abuse to their romantic partners, spouses and/or kids
Do you see how the effects of cyberbullying are devastating? That’s why it’s important to protect a teenager from being its victim and prevent him from committing it.
What can you do to protect teenagers from cyberbullying?
Well, you can help a teenager combat cyberbullying and its effects by advising him/her on the appropriate protective measures and tactics. Advise them to:
- Ignore bullies
Just like other bullies, cyberbullies provoke their targets to get the attention they need, mostly to create pain and clash. Advise the teenager to do everything they can to make sure that they don’t give their attention to the bullies. Some digital platforms have blocking features which if activated, the blocked person won’t be able to contact the target through the blocked account or communication line.
The best way to avoid giving such people attention is by blocking their communication as soon as a teenager realizes that they have ill motives. If a bully creates another account to continue the hurting communication, he/she should be blocked immediately. After all, activating the block option is a matter of a second. Eventually, the tormenter might get tired to creating many accounts and do away with their bully mission.
- Keep a record of the offensive content
In case the intimidator is successful in conveying the hurtful or abusive content to the teenager, advise the teenager to keep records of the content and guide him or her to take legal action.
If a malicious act is reported with accompanying evidence, the relevant authority will most likely take stern action on the offender. The move will not only discourage the offender from continuing with the offensive behavior but will also serve as a warning to other cyberbullies and anyone else intending to commit the vice.
- Protect their passwords
Some bullies in the internet steal passwords of other people’s accounts, access the accounts and post or share embarrassing content. Other people reading the content will think it’s the owner of the account who posted or shared the content. As such, teenagers should be advised not to disclose their passwords to other people and change them periodically to prevent theft by such malicious people.
In case damage has already occurred; that is if the bully has already posted or shared the embarrassing or offensive content, a teen should delete it and inform other people who’ve been affected about what happened. He/she should then change the password and ensure that the new one is strong to prevent another hacking.
- Open up to you
Teenage is a very delicate stage because that’s where a child tries to understand their identity. As such, they tend to gauge themselves according to how other people see them. It’d be very hurting if bullies take a toll on a teenager. Don’t allow that to happen because you are there to help them realize their true selves and their capabilities.
Be the best friend to your teen kid and encourage them to talk to you about anything they are facing. It is through such open communication that will help you to know when they face cyberbullying and step in on time to save the situation. Besides, being there for the adolescents and reminding how important they are will help them develop a thick skin against bullies both offline and online. Protecting a teenager from cyberbullying is saving a life.