The widespread use of technology among young people is a recent development. But bullies have always been around, and the digital age has presented new ways of bullying that sometimes go undetected by parents.  We’ve all seen horrid examples in the recent news of kids who’ve ultimately committed suicide over the torment they’ve suffered at the hands of cyber-bullies.

Bullying is malicious uninvited aggression that involves one person trying to assume power, authority or and/or control over another. Bullies abuse others by verbal and sometimes physical attacks, creating belittling rumors, and making repeated efforts to make the victim feel unworthy, different, unwanted, left out and hopeless.

Our government’s YRBSS, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found in 2011 that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year. With the explosive growth of electronic devices among teenagers, this rate is bound to become staggering in the next year unless adults make a concerted effort to educate themselves about bullying.

How is cyber-bullying different from other kinds of bullying?

Bullying in any form is damaging and painful. Cyber-bullying is different, however, since the options that kids would normally have aren’t always available.  The CDC helps us understand the difference:

  • Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.
  • Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
  • Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.

Similar effects says that cyber bullying results in much of the same emotional damage as face-to-face bullying. Kids who endure it are just as disturbed by it, and it has very similar effects.  They tell us cyber-bullied kids tend to:

  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Skip school
  • Experience in-person bullying
  • Be unwilling to attend school
  • Receive poor grades
  • Have lower self-esteem
  • Have more health problems

How can adults help?

The best medicine is often early prevention. If parents and teachers are aware of a child’s communications and online activities, they’re better able to see a red flag when an abusive, cutting or threatening text arrives, or an embarrassing photo shows up.  Reading Facebook interactions and knowing who has “friended” your child allows adults the opportunity to step in and block any inappropriate, mean or insulting communication. NQ Mobile’s Family Guardian lets parents take an active part in their kids’ cyber activities by giving them the ability to monitor and protect them.

Other solutions suggested by include setting a good example at home, teaching resilience, supporting your child’s interests, and creating an environment of positive family communication.  It helps when parents are involved in their kids’ school activities, and when they encourage healthy community involvement. Supporting a sensitive child by finding ways to boost self-esteem is key. But children also have a pressing need to feel safe and protected.

Keeping an eye on your child’s online activities

Family Guardian is available at Google Play for Android, and at the app store for iOS.  With easy to use allowing, blocking and monitoring features, it lets you adjust the level of protection and monitoring as your child matures. Using Family Guardian, you’ll never have to wonder if he or she is having a rough time online.

Have you or kids you know had experiences with cyber bullying?  We’d love to hear from you – how did you resolve the situation?  Share your stories with us on our blog or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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