It’s hard to be a parent in the digital age.
Our kids are digital natives. They probably know more about the Internet than we do, use all kinds of technology and apps we’ve never heard of and, with the rise of mobile technology, can stay in contact with their friends 24/7.
There’s simply no way to keep kids off the web, or to keep smartphones out of their hands. With all the beneficial tools and information out there, there’s little reason to.
Instead, parents need to be better informed, They need to learn how their kids are interacting with technology, learn when to be concerned and how to act appropriately.
As an online tutoring company that helps students with learning disabilities, FocusedLD has seen a steady and devastating rise in the incidence of cyberbullying in the digital world our students live in.
In fact, 43% of kids report having been bullied online and those with learning disabilities are more likely to be bullied online than their peers. We strongly feel that is important for parents and students to learn how to recognize cyberbullying and how to defend against it.
That’s why we’ve come up with a series of articles that will go through the basics of cyberbullying and how your student can learn to avoid and cope with cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying, exactly?
Cyberbullying is the use of the internet or communication technology to deliberately harass or hurt other people. In that way, it’s very similar to in-person bullying. An individual, or group of individuals, deliberately picks a victim to repeatedly harass online.
The digital world’s is 24/7, and that means bullying can now happen outside the classroom – wherever and however your child communicates with friends ‐ through websites, online chat, social media and texting. Where once a victim could feel safe at home, cyberbullies can now continue to harass their victims after school through-out their online lives.
Cyberbullying can range from posting and spreading embarrassing rumors or gossip about the victim, to repeatedly sending mean texts or emails, to encouraging them to self-harm or commit suicide.
Who is most at risk?
There is no guaranteed way of predicting who will be cyberbullied. However, there are some common risk factors:
- They are physically different than their peers
- They frequently post personal information or photos/videos online
- They’re new to school
- They are unpopular
- They have difficulty with appropriate social interaction
- They have learning disabilities
- They are seen as weak or an easy target by their peers
- They have a different sexual orientation
- They suffer from depression, anxiety and/or low self-esteem
What kinds of cyberbullying exist?
Cyberbullying can take many different forms and can use different media.
Social networks, website forums, Instant messenger, SMS texts and photo sharing websites are potential tools in the arsenal of a cyberbully.
Here are some more common types of cyberbullying:
Doxing: In the digital age, nothing is more valuable than personal privacy. Doxing is the deliberate removal of that privacy through the exposure of personal information- emails, text messages, and anything that the victim intends to be kept private. Bullies can display them publicly for the purpose of shaming, extorting or revealing the victims personal identity online.
High risk zones: Image sharing sites or message boards, especially where users are protected by anonymity
Image/Video Dissemination – People love sharing and laughing at amusing photos or videos online. That’s why image and video sharing are quickly becoming the backbone of online entertainment. It can be a form of bullying when a victim’s private (especially embarrassing) photos or videos, or photos/videos of them taken when they are unaware, are posted and re-posted to different forums for the purpose of mocking them. It may be done with or without personally identifying information attached to the images.
High Risk Zones: Social media as the source of the material and image/video sharing sites and message boards as tools of dissemination/bullying.
Exclusion: This occurs when other students use the internet or mobile phones to purposefully and publically exclude a student from a group event and then taunt them about it.
High Risk Zones: Social media sites
Brigading/Piling On – A bully may encourage their friends to participate in harassing the victim as a group, creating a targeted torrent of harassing comments.
High Risk Zones: Social Media, Instant Messengers and Chat.
Trolling - Trolling is the act of making deliberately offensive or provocative statements to the victim in an attempt to upset them or elicit an angry response that will embarrass them later if recorded. Students with learning disabilities that reduce impulse control (ADHD, ADD for example) or inhibit appropriate social responses (e.g autism spectrum) may be especially at risk.
High Risk Zones: Any website or web service that has a comments section or allows users to anonymously comment.
Sexual Harassment- Cyberbullying can take the form of sexual harassment. Slurs, lewd, suggestive and/or sexual comments are aggressively and continuously directed at the victim. Girls are particularly at risk.
High Risk Zones: Websites that allow anonymous commenting, sites dominated by one gender, video game forums.
Cyberstalking: A bully or bullies may single out your student for intimidation and harassment and repeatedly send offensive, libelous or threatening messages to a victim while “following them” to different websites.
High Risk Zones: Social media, IM and webforums.
Impersonation/identity theft: The bully or bullies establish (or gain access to) a variety of internet accounts using the victim’s identity in order to leave embarrassing or potentially harmful comments, messages or pictures.
High Risk Zones: Social Media, emails, comment boards.
Gaslighting - A sophisticated and manipulative form of bullying where the bully or bullies attempt to alter the victims perception of reality by introducing false or subtly distorted accounts of history (perhaps with doctored “evidence”), and combining it with an indignant, angry or guilt-inspiring attitude towards the victim for not remembering events correctly. Students with learning disabilities impairing their working memory and those with weak social skills may be particularly at risk.
High Risk Zones: Social Media, emails, IM, comments and message boards.