As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, many children and teens are dealing with cyber bullying in unprecedented ways. While the internet has brought about a number of exciting advances in technology, it has also ushered in an era of public platforms on which harassment may occur in front of many more people.
Cyber bullying has become such a problem that as many as 63% of teens say that they believe it is a problem. How exactly does cyber bullying occur, why is it such a problem, and what can be done to stop it?
Technology and Bullying
Cyber bullying occurs online, or using cell phones, or both. Because 80% of teens carry cell phones, it is very easy and common for bullying to occur on cell phones. Because of the way in which cell phones have advanced so that they are predominantly “smart phones,” it is very easy for teens to engage in bullying both via modes like text messages and by logging in online to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Why Is Cyber Bullying Potentially More Harmful Than Regular Bullying?
There are a number of reasons why cyber bullying may present a bigger threat to the mental health and well being of teens. Prior to the advent of social media sites and portable devices that allowed for constant interaction online, bullying may have been limited to just the hours during which school is open. Cyber bullying, however, can occur all day, all night, and even on the weekends.
Research has also suggested that bullying attacks online may be much more severe because of the fact that it is not done face to face and individuals who may otherwise not engage in bullying at all may commit mean spirited and vicious attacks from what they perceive to be a safe distance online.
What Exactly Does Cyber Bullying Entail?
Cyber bullying may take a number of forms, but can often include posting insulting messages on another person’s Facebook wall or making cruel comments on their own post. It can also include taking photos that paint another teen in a negative or embarrassing light or tweeting insulting comments at or about the bullying victim.
This can be particularly damaging to a young person’s mental health because not only does it have a negative impact on their self esteem, it occurs in a public space where they may be particularly humiliated by the bullying.
What Can Be Done To Stop Cyber Bullying?
There are a few things that may be done to help prevent cyber bullying. Many teens themselves are working together to help prevent bullying by making pledges to take a stand against individuals who bully or to help defend individuals who are being bullied.
Parents can talk to their kids about bullying and keep a close eye on all of their activity online. If a teen has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, parents should be aware of all content that appears on it. Parents should also explain the dangers of cyber bullying to their teen and make it clear that they will not tolerate that behavior.
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Justin Levin is a licensed Family and Marriage Therapist from Milwaukee, WI. Currently he’s working as a Clinical Services Manager providing adolescent treatment at Adolescent Growth.