As technology changes the way we live, young people find new ways to pick on each other. With the rise of the Internet and social media comes a new challenge. In the old days it was easy to tell when a child was bullying others, but now the lines are blurred to the point where kids may not even realize that their actions are intimidating not funny. Even worse, often the victims of cyberbullying are guilty of it themselves. Understanding the difference between bullying and cyberbullying can help you teach your children what is appropriate behavior online.
The Line Between Being Funny and Being a Bully
What appear to be harmless pranks really are not when done online. Once something is posted online, it is impossible to take it back. Here are a few things that kids may find funny that in reality is considered cyberbullying.
- Using someone else’s information to login to gain information on the person or to post information under their login information.
- Repeatedly saying something hurtful to an individual.
- Posting private emails, texts, or IMs without permission of the involved parties.
- Using the Internet to have other kids vote on negative characteristics, such as “Who is the fattest person in our class?” or “Who would you never consider dating?”
- Making any type of threat, no matter how apparently innocuous. Remember, there is no way to get tone from just text, so threats should never be posted as they can and should be taken seriously every time.
Bullying and cyberbullying are significantly different. Many of these actions when done in person would probably not be considered bullying. After all, kids have been able to make fun of their friends for centuries. However, the Internet has entirely changed the way people can interact with each other. For example, it is usually very obvious in real life when someone is doing an impersonation. This same type of behavior online can be detrimental because there is almost no way to know that the source was not the person identified, but someone else using their login information.
Why You May Not Realize Your Child Is Cyberbullying
With so many different ways for kids to interact, it is next to impossible for you to monitor their every action online. Even if you do, you may think that your child’s actions are innocent because you know the intent was not malicious. While valid, it is your job to make sure your child does not cross the line. Here are a few things that you can do to make sure child is toeing the line.
- Sit down with your child and discuss what cyberbullying is. Let your child know that actions that may be considered harmless at school are not acceptable online.
- Monitor your child’s time online. You don’t need to act like Big Brother, but do keep an eye on their activity. This is important for other reasons as well, especially in knowing who your child is talking to online.
- If you find that your child is guilty of cyberbullying, don’t over react. This discourages children from talking problems over with their parents, making it far more likely that situations will get far worse.
Words do hurt, and the more public the more damaging those words can be. Bullying and cyberbullying do not have the same end result. Bullying tends to drop off as kids grow up, but cyberbullying is emotionally much more harmful, making it difficult for victims to trust others well into adulthood.
For more information on cyberbullying, download our eBook "10 Essential Things Parents Need to Know About Cyberbullying."