If I asked this question before the days of smart devices, email and social media your answer would likely be “absolutely not”. You would be able to screen any calls coming into your home and protect your child from bullying, however, this is not the case today.
Unfortunately, it is much harder for teens to escape bullying unless they choose to unplug completely and what teen is going to do that? Cyberbullying can be persistent, either with non-stop harassing text messaging or with frequent hurtful, threatening or humiliating social media posts. For a teenager experiencing cyberbullying, home no longer feels like a safe place, even during a quarantine.
The other scary thing about cyberbullying is that once it is out there…it is usually out there forever. It’s easier for bullies to be relentless when they can hide behind a screen and not have to say or do something to their victim in person. While some bullying can be very blatant and obvious, other forms can be subtle yet still cause victims significant pain. An example of this is when a teen posts comments or a picture about a fun time that people had, and intentionally leaves someone out to make sure they know they were excluded. Those posting the picture or comment are doing it with the intent of hurting the individual who was not included.
Another form of social media bullying is when teens make rude, insulting or negative comments about their victim, without actually saying who they are talking about. They say enough so their victim, plus anyone else reading the comments, knows who they are talking about even though they never actually use their victim’s name. Bullying can also come in the form of posting personal information about someone. This could be posting their address, something they told someone in confidence or a humiliating photo or video.
There has been talk about having the “like” button removed from social media because so many people (both teens and adults) are overly focused on how many “likes” each picture or post receives. Teens are often very focused on this and bullies use this in two ways to hurt their victims. One way this is used is for a bully or a group to purposely not “like” content posted by their victim. Another way this is used is for a bully to “like” or comment on everything posted by their victim. This is very intimidating for victims of bullying because they are being given the message that their bully is watching everything they are doing online.
Finally, in an effort to bond with and feel close with others, teens will sometimes share their social media passwords with people they believe to be friends. Sometimes these “friends” share this information with a bully, or they use it themselves to “hack” a social media account. They then have control of that account and can post as though they are the victim. This can be scary, humiliating and have long term repercussions for victims.
What parents can do to help.
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