What is cyberbullying?

Bullies come in all shapes a sizes. Think back to your school days. Chances are the bullies there were a bit bigger and stronger than you. You might have lost your lunch money a few times or been embarrassed a few times but that was the extent of it. Bullying is a serious issue today, as it was when you went to school, but like almost everything else it has also moved into the cyber realm and is known as cyberbullying.

Some people are just plain mean. Combine that with the anonymity that the Internet brings and it can be a lethal combination. Cyberbullying can come in any online form, from text messages to emails to a social media profile. It can happen at anytime day or night, 24/7/365. It can come from any source and because of the anonymity it can be difficult to trace much less remove.

Bullying in general can have many negative effects on a child. Children will be less willing to go to school and as they get older it will lead to them skipping school and their grades will suffer. Drug and alcohol will become an escape for the child leading to health issues. Their self-esteem will be affected negatively leading to less social interaction with other kids. In school a bully can be identified. A teacher may see it or a parent can report it and an administrator can deal with it. That bully will know that there are consequences for their actions. The online realm offers none of that.

The online realm opens up numerous new avenues for bullies. Not only can they send threatening emails but they can also coerce someone to reveal something embarrassing and sent it to others. They can use a photo to alter images (think Photoshop) to further embarrass someone. Accounts can be hacked and used to send something untrue to others or incriminating. Cyberbullying is more though. Photos can be posted to websites to rate people’s looks. Something like that can be devastating for an adult and one can only imagine what it can do to a child’s psyche.

Cyberbullies use the anonymity of the Internet to prey on their victims. They hide behind a screenname and believe that no one will ever find out what they did. The tragic effects of their actions can change that as cyberbullying is one of the leading cause of suicide among children. Even if it does not rise to that level parents do have the option of pursuing legal action. An ISP will have the information about who made the threat and will be able to give that information to police upon request. Issues about hacking into someone’s account can bring even more serious charges.

For parents vigilance is required. Monitor your child’s account. You are the first line of defense. The old-time method of hitting the bully in the face does not work online. Know the signs of cyberbullying. It can be the difference between life and death and it can save your or someone else’s child’s life.

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