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Understanding the effects of cyberbullying and prevention strategies

An important message provided by SCIP during "Bullying Prevention Month" (October)

In 2013, one in four students age 12-18 reported being bullied during the school year (National Center for Educational Statistics). The popularity of social media is rapidly increasing in youth today. The use of social media and messaging apps are providing new avenues for socializing and bullying. October is bullying prevention month, which is a great opportunity to talk to youth about the rising trend - cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use the technology to harass, embarrass or harm another person. This may include hurtful text messages, emails or posts on social media. Other examples include posting embarrassing photos or videos on public websites or social media pages. In some instances, students reported a fake profile was created to harass others.

The Internet can provide an outlet for individuals to say or do things they would not tend to do in face-to-face interactions. Social media and other messaging apps allow a message to be sent very easily with a couple of clicks without having to see the other persons’ reaction. In addition, messages can be posted anonymously through certain phone apps or fake profiles. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, males have a tendency to bully by sending threatening messages or messages that are sexual in nature. Females have a tendency to spread rumors or make fun of others through messages or social media.

Cyberbully Statistics
The Cyberbullying Research Center collected data on cyberbullying victimization from middle and high schools students across the United States from 2007-2015. The results showed that, on average, 26.3% of students reported being a victim of cyberbullying at some point during their lifetime. In 2015 alone, 34% of the students who participated in the study experienced cyberbullying during their lifetime. In this particular study, females (40.6%) experienced cyberbullying at a greater rate than males (28.2%). The CDC conducted a study on bullying in 2013 that focused on high school students only. According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have experienced cyberbullying within 12 months of completing the survey.

Cyberbullying Effects
Cyberbullying can have harmful effects on youth. Through social media, cyberbullying can happen at any time of day and at any frequency. It can often feel unavoidable even when students are away from school. Victims of bullying tend to experience depression and anxiety. Victims may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and experience changes in sleeping or eating habits. Finally, victims of bullying often experience a decline in academic performance.

Cyberbullying does not only have harmful effects on the victim, but also the bully and the bystanders as well. Children who bully are more likely to abuse drugs, engage in sexual activity at a young age, receive criminal convictions, abuse a partner and drop out of school (stopbullying.gov). Bystanders have increased mental health concerns, like anxiety, miss or skip school and are more likely to use drugs.

Cyberbullying Prevention
There are many ways for parents and schools to prevent and intervene in cyberbullying. A 2013 study by McCallion and Feder found that school-based bullying prevention programs can decrease bullying by up to 25%. Check with your administrator or school attorney to see if cyberbullying is included in your policies on harassment and bullying. Cyberbullying can occur at any time of day when students have access to technology, including during the school day. Become familiar with your school’s policies and enforce them.

Prevention for Parents
• Establish and enforce rules related to cyberbullying
• Know the sites youth are visiting and phone apps they are using. Try the apps on your own device, so you understand how they work.
• Educate youth on appropriate technology use and how to make apps and profiles private
• Ask to “follow” or “friend” your child on social media sites
• Set up parental controls on devices
• Keep computer in a busy area of your home
• Encourage open communication, encourage youth to let you know when someone is being bullied.

Additional Handouts for Parents:
What To Do When Child is Cyberbullied Handout (PDF) http://cyberbullying.org/tips-for-parents-when-your-child-is-cyberbullied.pdf
Cellphone Safety Tips (PDF) http://cyberbullying.org/Top-Ten-Teen-Tips-Cell-Phones.pdf
Cyberbullying: What Parents Can Do (PDF) http://www.pacer.org/publications/bullypdf/BP-23.pdf

McCallion and Feder study - http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43254.pdf

Understanding the effects of cyberbullying and prevention strategies

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