“Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using electronic technology.” Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Cyberbullying arises when we have a population of teens who are struggling with self-identity; who depend on peer perceptions for some of their self-worth; who have insufficient coping skills to manage stress in a healthy way; who do not have the tools to deal properly with conflict; who are not aware of the consequences of content shared or posted online; who lack impulse control; who lack education about etiquette, civility, empathy, and other socio-emotional concepts both in the real world and online.
Signs of cyberbullying may include:
- Being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
- Being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
- Withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
- Avoiding school or group gatherings
- Slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
- Changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
- Wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
- Being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
- Avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities
“Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.”
Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely 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
Recent studies indicate that anywhere from 15-35% of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. It is also estimated that about 20% of teens have been the victim of cyberbullying at some point in their lifetime.
Cyberbullying may rise to the level of a misdemeanor cyber-harassment charge, or if the child is young enough may result in the charge of juvenile delinquency.
If you discover that your child is being cyberbullied:
- Offer comfort and support
- Let your child know that it’s not his or her fault
- Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone
- Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together
- Encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying
- Keep the threatening messages, pictures, and texts, as these can be used as evidence with the bully’s parents, school, employer, or even the police
At Miami Counseling and Resource Center, our experienced therapist Laura Urquiaga-Balter, LMHC offers individual education, training and techniques to children, adolescents and parents who are experiencing the painful effects of bullying. Ms. Urquiaga-Balter educates clients on how to manage and regulate emotions, how to be assertive, conflict resolution skills, and how to build healthy relationships. Please visit our website for more information about services provided.