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Preventing Cyberbullying Among Children and Adolescents

Facts about dealing with cyberbullying.

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Cyberbullying is defined as aggression that is intentionally and repeatedly carried out in an electronic context (through e-mail, twitter, instagram, text messages) against a person who cannot easily defend him- or herself. (e.g., Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014). According to the Stress in American survey from the American Psychological Association (APA), 58% of parents reported that they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health (APA, 2017). According to a research study (Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014), cyberbullying is linked to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping, increased physical symptoms, decreased performance in school, absenteeism and truancy, dropping out of school, and suicide. Research also reports that teen girls are more likely to use social media to communicate, which could expose them to more negative outcomes such as cyberbullying (APA, 2017). The Stress in America survey also found that parents of teen girls were significantly more likely to report that they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health (69 percent, compared to 39 percent of parents of teen boys).

Kowalski and co-authors (2014) identify the following types of cyberbullying:

- flaming (i.e., an online fight)

- harassment (i.e., repetitive, offensive messages sent to a target)

- outing and trickery (i.e., soliciting personal information from someone and then electronically sharing that information with others without the individual’s consent)

- impersonation (i.e., posing as the victim and electronically communicating negative or inappropriate information with others as if it were coming from the victim)

- cyber-stalking (i.e., using electronic communication to stalk another person by sending repetitive threatening communications)

- sexting (i.e., distributing nude pictures of another individual without that person’s consent)

Dealing with Cyberbullying

Here are some recommended suggestions from the APA that parents and teens can take to help reduce bullying.

Tips for Parents on Preventing Bullying

Stop bullying before it starts

Educate your children about bullying. It is possible that your child is having trouble reading social signs and does not know what they are doing is hurtful. Remind your child that bullying others can have legal consequences.

Make your home “bully free”

Children learn behavior through their parents. Being exposed to aggressive behavior or an overly strict environment at home makes kids more prone to bully at school. Parents/caregivers should model positive examples for your child in your relationships with other people and with them.

Look for self esteem issues

Children with low self-esteem often bully to feel better about themselves. Even children who seem popular and well-liked can have mean tendencies. Mean behavior should be addressed by parents and disciplined.

Advice for Youth

Report bullying and cyberbullying

It is important for students to report any bullying to a parent or an adult they trust. Often kids don’t report cyberbullying because they fear their parents will take away their phone or computer. Parents will support their child’s reports of bullying and not take away their phones as a consequence. It is important for kids to remember that bullying is wrong and should be handled by an adult.

Don’t bully others

It may be difficult to not bully back, but as the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. Try not to show anger or tears. Either calmly tell the bully to stop bullying or simply walk away.

Avoid being alone

Whenever possible, avoid situations where there are no other students or teachers. Try to go to the bathroom with a friend or eat lunch in a group. When riding the bus, sit near the front. If you know a student who likes to bully others is in an area where you normally walk to lunch or class, try to use alternative hallway routes.

Resources for Seeking Help

Information and Resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Reporting Cyberbullying

Suicide Prevention Information

Behavioral Health Treatment Locator

Copyright 2017 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.

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American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: Coping with Change. Stress in America™ Survey. Retrieved May 2017 from

Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., & Lattanner, M. R. (2014). Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 1073-1137.

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