Cyberbullying and Teens – The Basics for Parents

Cyberbullying has increased. To effectively stop cyberbullying, it is important not only to know what it is, but also how it presents itself, and the possible effects. Awareness is the key to preventing any occurrences and ensuring that your children do not become victims.

What is considered cyberbullying can vary. Essentially, cyberbullying occurs when a child or teenager singles out another teenager or group of teenagers in a negative way online. This can include harassment, threats and even smearing someone’s name by spreading lies. With the usage of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, it is very easy for teenagers to bully each other in an online environment.

Cyberbullying is not usually a one-time instance. Most often, it is several messages being exchanged by the parties involved. These messages can take place using an instant messenger such as AIM or Yahoo! Negative blogs can be written about teens that are unaware of such slanderous activities. In some extreme cases, teenagers will hack another teen’s account and post degrading comments or send messages to others posing as that person.

Many teens do not give the issue any forethought and do not realize that they are setting themselves up for a possible criminal charge. Others are simply not aware or do not care that they are damaging reputations and causing depression which may even lead to suicide or murder.

As a parent, it is important to spread awareness to your children about cyberbullying and its effects. What may seem like innocent fun to one teen is embarrassing to another and may lead to social problems. Stories are always in the news about teenagers who have committed suicide because of comments posted online. Teenagers have killed another in similar situations.

Issuing threats is a criminal matter. However, it is very difficult to sue an offender of cyberbullying as the burden of proof may not exist. Teenagers may claim that the comments were posted by someone who hacked into their account or simply that they were just joking around.

Many offenders get off lightly rather than facing any criminal charges. When a teenager commits murder or suicide, it can be very hard to prove that the events surrounding the death were caused by cyberbullying. One can argue that the child was depressed before any instances of cyberbullying took place.

Cyberbullying can take many forms. Teenagers can smear a classmate’s name on any social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook. They can also create a damaging blog or website devoted to “smearing” or degrading another teen. As a rule of thumb, the term Cyberbullying usually only refers to teenagers and children. When an adult is the source of the bullying, it’s known as cyberstalking or cyberharrassment.

Knowing the forms of cyberbullying and what to be aware of will help to stop another child from cyberbullying yours. Be sure to discuss cyberbullying and its consequences with your children as well so that they do not become cyberbullies themselves.

Note: Although there are quite a few “4-star and up” resources listed below, we highly recommend Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying (Second Edition). We believe it is an absolute must-read book for parents and everyone who works with teens in any way.


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