Cyberbullying: Don’t Let Your Teen Be a Bystander

Cyberbullying is a form bullying by sending or posting mean, hurtful, or intimidating messages online, usually anonymously. It is usually targeted and repeated over a period of time. It is not a topic to take lightly or brush off as “teen drama.” The following are some eye-opening statistics according to Tulane University School of Social work:

  • Around 1 in 3 students experience bullying through the academic year
  • Only 15% of students admit to being cyberbullied
  • 61% of overweight teens have reported being bullied online
  • 70% of K-12 kids have witnessed cyberbullying take place
  • Only 10% of cyberbullying victims will report to an adult about getting cyberbullies
  • Females are 2 times more likely to be victims of cyber bulling
  • Kids are 7 times more likely to experience cyberbullying from friends than strangers
  • Cyberbullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to contemplate suicide

Many of us, if we are not directly affected by cyberbullying, often only think of the person being bullied or the actual bully. Those are the stories we hear about; the teen getting nasty, hateful texts from numerous classmates or the junior high kid sending inappropriate pictures via instant messenger on a school computer. Here we focusing on the bystanders, the kids that see the cyberbullying happening, feel uncomfortable with it, but are unsure of what to do.

Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., of the Cyberbullying Research Center have come up with Top Ten Tips for Teens that will give them specific ideas of what to do when they witness cyberbullying:

  1. REPORT TO SCHOOL. If the person being cyberbullied is someone from your school, report it to your school. Many have anonymous reporting systems to allow you to let them know what you are seeing without disclosing your identity.
  2. COLLECT EVIDENCE. Take a screenshot, save the image or message, or screen-record what you see. It will be easier for an adult to help if they can see—and have proof of—exactly what was being said.
  3. REPORT TO SITE/APP/GAME. All reputable online environments prohibit cyberbullying and provide easy tools to report violations. Don’t hesitate to report; those sites/apps will protect your identity and not “out” you.
  4. TALK TO A TRUSTED ADULT. Develop relationships with adults you can trust and count on to help when you (or a friend) experience something negative online. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, or family friend.
  5. DEMONSTRATE CARE. Show the person being cyberbullied that they are not alone. Send them an encouraging text or snap. Take them aside at school and let them know that you have their back.
  6. WORK TOGETHER. Gather your other friends and organize a full-court press of positivity. Post kind comments on their wall or under a photo they’ve posted. Encourage others to help report the harm. There is strength in numbers.
  7. TELL THEM TO STOP. If you know the person who is doing the cyberbullying, tell them to knock it off. Explain that it’s not cool to be a jerk to others. But say something—if you remain silent, you are basically telling them that it is ok to do it.
  8. DON’T ENCOURAGE IT. If you see cyberbullying happening, don’t support it in any way. Don’t forward it, don’t add emojis in the comments, don’t gossip about it with your friends, and don’t stand on the sidelines.
  9. STAY SAFE. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. When your emotions are running high, resist posting something that may escalate the situation. Don’t hang out online where most people are cruel. Never physically threaten others.
  10. DON’T GIVE UP. Think creatively about what can be done to stop cyberbullying. Brainstorm with others and use everyone’s talents to do something epic!Let’s face it, it can be difficult at any age to stand up for others. But, when you have a strategy and a plan in place it makes a difficult task much less daunting.

Project B3 especially likes the idea of #5. Demonstrate Care and #6. Work Together. Let the victim know that they are not alone, that they have support and that there are people more than willing to band together to help them out. If you are a parent or an educator reading this article, please share it with a young person in your life. Remind them to #BeSafe #BeSmart #BeKind!