Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Bullying has been amplified with technology. Teens today are digitally connected with their peers nearly 24 hours a day. If a cruel comment or mean meme is posted about them, the emotional pain is magnified by a million as they feel the whole world is reading it. Most will continuously check-in to count the likes and continue reading vicious comments.

Research from the think tank Demos found that boys are significantly more likely to have bullied someone online than girls, but young people with “stronger traits of empathy and self-control” are less likely to cyberbully.

Demos surveyed 16- to 18-year-olds over Facebook on their online behavior and responses to various social media scenarios.

The survey reported a “shockingly high incidence of hostile behavior to peers,” with 26 percent of those surveyed admitting to having “bullied or insulted someone else” online.

Fifteen percent of the teens surveyed said they "joined in with other people to 'troll' a celebrity or public figure." 

The gender factor

Demos found that boys are significantly more likely to say they have bullied or insulted someone online than girls, with 32 percent of boys saying they have, compared to 22 percent of girls.

Interestingly, the same applies for trolling a public figure, which 22 percent of boys but 10 percent of girls admitted they had done.

Monkey see, monkey do

The Demos' focus groups found that the teens were drawn into cyberbullying situations by witnessing their friends being bullied or insulted online and felt compelled to respond aggressively. 

Sadly, 93 percent of those who said they had insulted or bullied someone else online said that they had themselves experienced some form of cyberbullying or abuse.

The positive side

The majority, 88 percent of teenagers surveyed said they had given emotional support to a friend on social networking sites. 

Young people rely on friends more than adults, according to studies, when they are being harassed online. 

This is where parents need to do a better job at connecting offline with their teenager about their online life. Many teen's fear that their parent will take away their digital device or possibly judge or blame them for their online issues. With open lines of communication you can constantly remind them that no matter what, you are always there for them. Understanding that the cyber-world can be a difficult one at times. After all, not everyone is who they pretend to be online. 

Dealing with cyberbullying

Social media savvy police office, Mike Bires frequently speaks with parents and schools about online safety and reporting cyberbullying including sextortion.

Officer Bires reminds parents:

  • Be empathetic, honest, and transparent.
  • Discuss the incident with school administrators (if applicable).
  • Preserve the evidence. Do not delete any communication with the offender.
  • Report the incident to law enforcement.
  • Seek professional counseling for both you and your child to manage the incident.

Officer Bires's advice for youth:

  • Do not engage, however difficult it may be. When you participate, the bully’s desired reaction will not occur, and the bully will end up looking worse among his peers. The bully will find that those he thought would support his actions will turn away from him.
  • Speak positively online and never show your frustration or anger. It’s easier said than done, but do your best.
  • Block, restrict, or limit the offender’s access to your conversations. For example, on Facebook, you can block users in your settings area. Many platforms allow you to block people to eliminate them from engaging with you on social media.
  • Reach out to your parents or a trusted, responsible adult. Seek their assistance in dealing with the issues. There is nothing wrong with getting help from others who might have experienced similar situations.
  • Report the offenders to the social media platform where they are committing their acts. Those platforms have conduct rules established for users of their platform, and they will take action if necessary to alleviate a person’s frustration with using their platform.
  • If it persists, seek the assistance of law enforcement.

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