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Behind the screen—What you need to know about cyberbullying
If you’ve been around a teenager recently, chances are they’ve not been more than an arm’s length away from their cell phone. They’re talking about their Twitter feed or something they saw online that a friend of a friend sent them.
Cyberbullying, or bullying/teasing online, is becoming a fad that is all too easy with the availability of Internet-ready devices at teens’ fingertips. Cyberbullying can take on many forms and can become toxic quickly.
So, what is cyberbullying?
Many people struggle to grasp exactly what falls under the growing realm that is cyberbullying. Fortunately, the Canadian government has created a resourceful website that lays out the basic forms of cyberbullying common in young adults and teens:
- Mean or threatening messages are sent by email, text or through comments on a social network.
- Embarrassing rumors, secrets or gossip about someone are spread through social networking sites, texts or email.
- Embarrassing or intimate pictures or video of someone is posted online or shared without them knowing about it or agreeing to it.
- Stories, pictures, jokes or cartoons intended to embarrass or humiliate someone are posted online.
- Someone's email account is hacked and the person pretends to be them while sending out hurtful messages to others. Or, an individual learns someone's password and uses it to access their social networking account and post embarrassing and hateful messages while pretending to be them.
- Someone is tricked online into sharing personal information, only to have that information shared very widely with others.
- Online polls or rating systems are created to mock and ridicule someone.
- Someone is ganged up on in online gaming, their character repeatedly targeted, and personal information is used to threaten them.
How does cyberbullying affect teens?
In the U.S., the CDC cites that between 9 and 35 percent of young people report being victims to this type of electronic aggression or cyberbullying. The CDC also reports that kids who are cyberbullied are also bullied in person, heightening the abuse and giving the victim virtually no way out. The effects of cyberbullying on teens are (and are not limited to) the following:
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
- Skipping school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receiving poor grades
- Having lower self-esteem
- Having more health problems
What should I do about it?
Fortunately, cyberbullying is avoidable—just like with your computer’s security, the best form of protection is prevention. Parents, do your homework! Since your kids are growing up around cell phones and other various technological devices, you should be up to speed on what they have access to every day. Have an open line of communication when it comes to discussing online activity, and be sure your child understands the risks of cyberbullying. Let them know they can come to you and that your end goal is to keep them safe, not make their lives more complicated. Lastly, talk to their school officials to see if they have policies in place for cyberbullying to help prevent it from happening in the classroom.
Stand up against bullying on Feb. 25.
In an effort to help raise awareness for bullying (in-person and online) in Canada, Feb. 25 has been deemed National Pink Shirt Day. We at Lavasoft feel very strongly about putting an end to cyberbullying and will be participating by wearing our pink shirts proudly all day. We will be hosting a bake sale to benefit anti-bullying programs across Canada.
Additionally, we have conducted a survey and will be announcing the results in the next few weeks that will help us better understand teens’ online behavior, keep up with cyberbullying trends and see if teens are being safe online. We have also started an initiative called “Take a Bite Out of Bullying” on our Facebook Page to support Pink Shirt Day by posting pictures of some of our cute pups urging people to stop bullying! Please visit https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/cnt/cbrbllng/index-eng.aspx to find out more about cyberbullying and how you can help to prevent it starting now.