Today’s teens use technology more than ever. Most have high-speed Internet access, which they use to send instant messages to their friends, create blogs and online videos, and keep personal profiles on social networking websites, share photos, and more. Many teens also have cell phones and spend hours text-messaging friends. Technology, especially the Internet, allows all of us immediate access to information, which can greatly benefit our lives. However, it has also provided some people with the means to exploit the innocent, commit crimes, and inflict injury on others. This technology has allowed some teens to take the bullying that thrives in school hallways into cyberspace.
Youth give many reasons for bullying; adults can help stop cyber bullying by learning why youth cyber bully and by teaching youth how to interact positively in cyberspace. An overwhelming majority of teens believe that youth cyber bully because they think it’s a joke, not realizing the negative impact it may have on the victim. Many teens also think that youth cyber bully because they are encouraged by friends or because they believe that everyone else cyber bullies. Dealing with cyber bullying can be difficult, but there are steps parents, educators, and other caregivers can take to prevent it. Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to help keep youth safe online. In order to do this, parents have to be aware of the types of activities youth are engaged in online and teach teens about cyber-ethics, responsibility, and internet safety.
Despite our collective efforts to teach teens about cyber safety, they can still be victimized by youth who cyber bully. Moreover, cyber bullying can be an extension of bullying that teens are experiencing in school, and it may be more emotionally destructive. Threats and taunts posted on websites are visible throughout the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Youth who cyber bully often create websites that encourage friends and classmates to make disparaging comments about another youth. Thus, teens who are cyber bullied can face constant victimization and do not have a safe retreat. Because of this, cyber bullying can elicit a strong emotional response from teens. Some teens change their daily online and offline behaviors. Over 50 percent of teens felt angry after they were cyber bullied. Roughly one-third of teens felt hurt, and almost 15 percent of teens felt scared by cyber bullying experiences.
Parents can help teens who are cyber bullied by teaching them methods that can prevent bullying. Teens can be taught not to respond to cyber bullies. They can be shown to block the bully’s messages or to delete messages without reading them. (Blocking and deleting messages/contacts may be executed differently through websites, instant messengers, or email providers. For help, contact the site/software administrators.)
Teens can be reminded to keep their passwords a secret from everyone except their parents. Teens need to realize that it’s not their fault if they become victims of cyber bullying, but it is important for them to tell their parents if they are victimized. Some teens don’t disclose cyber-bullying incidents to parents because they fear that their Internet privileges will be taken from them. If the cyber bullying involves threats and harassment or frequent cyber attacks, police can be contacted to ensure teen’s safety. It’s always important to remember that cyber bullying incidents sometimes end violently.