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With rising use of social media across all age groups, cyber bullying has become a significant problem for children and their parents. A 2017 poll of more than 2,000 adults conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that cyberbullying was the number one concern about their children’s health, followed by internet safety.
One-third of parents were concerned about cyberbullying, compared to only 28 percent for motor vehicle accidents, which are actually the leading cause of death for kids ages 2 to 14. Accordingly, the survey results are somewhat surprising and thus demand a look at what enables cyber bullying and what effects it can have on victims.
The roots of cyber bullying: Growing reach of broadband and social media
Cyber bullying by definition requires specific online platforms. It is most closely associated with social sites such as Twitter and Facebook, on which a constant stream of interactions is the norm. But it can also take place via messaging apps or email accounts.
Until at least the late 1990s, children did not have routine access to the internet, meaning that they rarely entered environments in which cyberbullying would be a possibility. Pew Research Center charted how this situation has changed over time:
- Almost no homes had broadband internet in 2000; but by 2016, almost 80 percent did.
- Smartphones entered the mainstream in the late 2000s and surpassed 75 percent ownership nationwide in 2016.
- The percentage of Americans using at least one social media site was in the single digits as recently as 2005, but reached 69 percent in November 2016.
Internet service has become faster and more widely available over time, leading to many new opportunities for cyber bullying. Plus, use of internet, mobile and social services is negatively correlated with age, meaning younger individuals are more exposed to potential pressure and harassment. The anonymity afforded by most online services is also a major incentive for cyber bullies to behave in ways they might not consider in other (i.e., offline) contexts.
“Younger individuals are more exposed to potential pressure and harassment online.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2014 that 15 percent of high school students had been cyber bullied within the past year. LGBT students were especially likely to have experienced cyber bullying, with more than 55 percent reporting an incident.
Standing up to cyber bullying: What parents and children can do
Since it affects victims during formative periods in their lives, cyber bullying can seem too difficult to deal with. Parents must take the lead in ensuring that the appropriate tools and practices are in place to reduce the effects of online negativity.
Cyberbullying can be a catalyst for debilitating conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, limiting its impact is possible through measures such as:
Many social media channels offer the option to block designated accounts or even to mute/filter out specific keywords from your feed. By taking advantage of these features, you can prevent unwanted interactions as well as stalking.
Some forms of cyber bullying – such as “flame wars,” a common feature on message boards involving the exchange of angry, aggressive posts – can be avoided by simply not responding. This behavior can be difficult to follow when the topic is highly personal or sensitive, but if followed it can reduce throwing more fuel on the fire.
Online security software
In addition to the emotional damage it can trigger, cyber bullying can also jeopardize your cyber security. Threats and constant surveillance may result in someone getting your password, address or other piece of personally identifiable information. A security platform such as Unlimited Internet Security from Total Defense is essential for protecting your identity amid the volatility of cyberbullying.
Learn more about options for defending children from cyber bullying by visiting our online store.