Knowing the definition of cyberbullying and how to identify the signs that your child is being bullied online can help you keep your child safe. While the Internet provides limitless educational opportunities, the chances for bullies to harass fellow students online are equally vast. Cyberbullying follows children home from school and can publicize taunts, threats, sexual harassment, and other personal attacks.
While the Merriam-Webster definition of cyberbullying is “The electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (as a student) often done anonymously”, further narrowing down of the definition of cyberbullying is necessary.
For example, according to stop cyberbullying.org, to be cyberbullying “It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.”
The site goes on to note the legal ramifications of an act of online bullying by minors: “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. Most of the time the cyberbullying does not go that far, although parents often try and pursue criminal charges. It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a terms of service violation. And in some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved, can be a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.”
Additionally, the physical and mental toll that cyberbullying takes on children is great, according to Sheri Bauman, a professor and director of the School Counseling Master’s Degree Program at UA., “Both cyber and traditional bullying are predictors of depression and suicide attempts, and those risks exist for both perpetrators and targets….Cyberbullying occurs in young people from all socioeconomic groups, including students with disabilities. Chronic bullying and cyberbullying behaviors, for both perpetrator and victim, may persist into adulthood as well.” With students receiving ever-increasing access to a world of social media and other online material, the risk for cyberbullying is just going to increase with time.
While the problem can seem overwhelming if you are trying to help a child fend off a cyberbully, there are a number of strategies and preventative measures that you can take to combat this issue. The National Crime Prevention Council offers a number of great ways for your child and you to defend against cyberbullying:
- Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
- Tell friends to stop cyberbullying.
- Block communication with cyberbullies.
- Always report cyberbullying to a trusted adult.
- Speak with other students, teachers and school administrators, to develop rules against cyberbullying and raise awareness of the cyberbullying problem in your community. Hold an assembly and create fliers to give to younger kids or parents.
- Share these tips with friends.
- Don’t forget that even though you can’t see a cyberbully or the bully’s victim, cyberbullying causes real problems. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
- Delete cyberbullying. Don’t write it. Don’t forward it.
- Never post or share your or your friends’ personal information online.
- Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
- Never meet anyone face-to-face who you only know online.
- Talk to your parents about what you do online.
If you want to know the answer to the question, “What is the definition of cyberbullying?”, ask your child. Even if you believe that you have taken enough safety precautions, your child may still be at risk, and chances are they have been bullied online at some point.
If you know someone has suffered or ended their life as a result of bullying, their family may want to speak with a personal injury lawyer. There are families who have filed wrongful death lawsuits after their child committed suicide as a result of extensive bullying. While individual lawsuits may not curb this problem nationally, the spotlight on these cases and the recent suicides resulting from cyberbullying may encourage states to pass legislation preventing online harassment in schools to help prevent future tragedies.