Did you know cyberbullying victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and consider suicide?  If you weren’t aware of its devastating impact, all you need to do is watch local TV news or read the paper to learn of cyberbullying and its harmful consequences to young people right here in our own community – even as recent as last week. Some of these teenage victims your children may know or may be the victims of themselves. In fact, I encourage you to ask your teenager tonight if they know someone who has been cyberbullied.

Shockingly, incidents involving cyberbullying and teens continue to grow at an alarming rate.

According to DoSomething.org, 43% of kids have been bullied online. That’s nearly half of all young people experiencing cyberbullying with another whopping 70% who reported witnessing online bullying take place. This means most of our children are aware that bullies are sending threatening emails or text messages to their peers, or know bullies who have spread hurtful rumors online about others posing as themselves or someone else or are, perhaps, know of bullies who are circulating sexually suggestive pictures about one of their peers.  Even more worrisome is that while most teens agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem, only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.

So, why does cyberbullying continue to grow?

Perhaps it’s the fact that more than 80% of teens regularly use a cell phone, making it a widely accessible medium for cyberbullying. That, coupled with the point that the one inflicting the bullying can remain at a private distance while inflicting pain onto its victims, is another reason. In fact, as a result of its continued growth, in recent years the State of Nevada, local nonprofits and support groups continue to launch and expand efforts to reduce and eliminate cyberbullying as well as provide emotional, social and, sometimes, legal support to those victimized by cyberbullying. And, the impact can have long lasting harm to teens, the children us parents want to keep from harm.

Parents can take action to help their teens.

  • Talk to your child about cyberbullying, why it is wrong and the consequences it can have on others. Many cyberbullies may think bullying others is fun and may not understand the consequences for themselves and, in some cases, their parents as a result.
  • Encourage your child to talk to an adult if cyberbullying takes place and ensure your child knows they will not be in trouble if they come to talk to you about how they are being bullied to encourage an open line of communication.
  • Children are encouraged to keep their bullying messages as proof so parents can assist when talking to the parents of the bully or in the event law enforcement is needed.
  • Attempt to block the bully from sending messages, change a phone number or email address to reduce or eliminate a bully’s access to communication outlets.
  • Talk to your child about privacy and using caution when sharing details and photographs about themselves to others.

However, one of the most powerful abilities parents have to help our children from being cyberbullied is to make certain they are confident in knowing they can disconnect from their virtual world and realize there is a physical world alive around them and a supportive, loving group of adults who are there for them. Parents should comfort their teens and let them know that it is allowable to delete and create new accounts, to get a new phone number or to “block,” “unfollow” and “unfriend” contacts.  Even better, let your children know that when their virtual world, which is their whole world, turns upside down that you are there for them and they can unplug and get a hug 24/7. Education for parents and children help us all become good digital citizens and reduce the dangers associated with Internet crimes, including sexting. For more information and resources, visit SM@RTConnections. Or, follow us on Facebook or Instagram to keep informed.