We read all the time about the unfortunate act of cyberbullying amongst teens and its detrimental effects. Kids these days are subjected to a more dangerous type of shaming and teasing than we’ve ever experienced in past generations. Rightly so, parents are greatly concerned about cyberbullying and its potential negative mental health threat to their children.
Online Bully, Bully
Cyberbullying is a very real and seriously, damaging activity. Some Internet users, both young and old, derive a sense of power from admonishing others online. Often times, they shame, threaten, or humiliate. Sometimes, it’s done anonymously. The bottom line is that those actions may have repercussions that can affect the victim’s mental health in a significantly negative fashion.
For teens, especially, bullying peers online is a perilous practice. Victims can feel harassed, intimidated, and even tormented. This can create severe anxiety, depression, and, at worst, suicide. Experts in the field, as well as parents, understand that cyberbullying can be the source of major mental health problems for youngsters.
Parents Voice Concerns
Recent research out of the University of Michigan revealed informative data regarding the issue of teen Internet-intimidation. A poll was taken from over 1,500 parent participants who had kids 18 and under. As it turned out, cyberbullying was one of the moms’ and dads’ biggest worries. In fact, one-third of the participants were concerned about their children’s mental health in regards to online bullying.
The other greatest concern for the polled parents was overall Internet safety. Their unease ranged from online predators to pornography to their children providing too much personal information to the wrong sources. These apprehensions are well founded considering the vast, virtual world in which we live today.
Internet Safety Tips for Teens (and Others)
There are a lot of sites that offer proactive strategies for safe Internet use as well as how to talk to your kids about healthy online habits. Some experts recommend calling it something other than “Internet Safety.” They claim that youngsters either rebel or shut down from the lecturing, or become fearful from the term.
We want our youngsters to gain all the advantages the World Wide Web has to offer. Immediate access to all types of information can be incredibly beneficial on many levels. But obviously, safety is a key concern. Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. have some helpful advice for parents:
- Talk to other parents and your kids about what they are reading and seeing. Educate each other and look for ways to avoid placing yourself in a cyberbully situation.
- Protect your password from EVERYONE! Remind your children that, unfortunately, friends come and go at this age. Even the best of friends should not have your passwords.
- Don’t post any photo you would not want your grandparents to see. Use that as a barometer for sensible photo updates. This way, no bully can post a photo of you that can be misconstrued as sexual or as something you don’t want to represent.
- Never open emails or files from people you don’t know. Just delete them. You don’t need a virus or a bully hacking into your account.
- If you log on to any of your accounts away from your own computer, DON’T FORGET TO LOG OUT. If you’re at the library checking emails or whatever, if you don’t log out, the next person that uses that public computer has access to your stuff—all your stuff.
- Think before you post. You never know whom you may offend. Triple check your photo or writing before it goes out into the online world, never to be taken back…
- “’Google” yourself. Regularly search your name in every major search engine. If any personal information or photo comes up which may be used by cyberbullies to target you, take action to have it removed before it becomes a problem.”
And finally, don’t BE the cyberbully. The ramifications of your actions can be dire. Kindness and empathy are essential when commenting online. And as most moms used to say, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”
Teach by example. If you don’t want your kid bullied or to be a bully, model him/her a positive way.