Throughout this article I refer to bullying and cyberbullying. While there are obvious differences between the two, the motivations of the bully are similar and so for the most part the terms are interchangeable. Bullying is not a new occurrence. It is unlikely that anyone above primary school age has not been a victim, perpetrator or witness to bullying. With the introduction of modern technology, today’s adolescent is exposed to a subtler, yet potentially more damaging type of bullying, that of cyber bullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that is done through technology, such as the internet, a mobile phone or camera. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, allow hurtful or harmful messages to be spread quickly and to a large audience with relative ease.
Unlike traditional bullying, a one-time act of cyberbullying can continue to cause distress long after the initial act. A malicious online comment, posted once, but viewed and shared multiple times, is a good example of this aspect of cyberbullying. Therefore, cyberbullying, unlike traditional bullying, can potentially take place at any time, any location and with a far greater reach and potential for negative outcomes. Gone are the days when the home was a sanctuary from bullying. Unfortunately, with current technologies the bullying can continue long after someone has left school, university or work for the day.
Recent research suggests cyberbullying is common among young people with access to current technologies. Current research suggests that for school aged children between 8 and 17 years, bullying and cyberbullying rates can be as high as 30%. Prevalence of cyberbullying among young adults, particularly college and university students, has not been researched as extensively. However, it has been suggested that as cyberbullying rates tend to increase with age, much of the current research statistics could be extrapolated to these young adults. Regardless of the exact rates among young adults, negative psychological outcomes from cyberbullying, can have dramatic effects on the wellbeing of individuals.
There are considerable negative consequences of cyberbullying for both victim and perpetrator. Victims can have higher rates of depression, medication use and suicidality. Additionally, perpetrators are more likely to have anxiety disorders, social problems and engage in high risk activities. In an ideal world there would be no bullying and of course without current technologies cyberbullying would be non-existent. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, so we have to work with what we have. As a parent I have experienced the frustration of having a child bullied and receiving a less than satisfactory response from schools, bus companies etc. After talking to other parents, it seems my experience is not uncommon.
The two most common forms of resolving the issue of bullying is preventing the behaviour (changing the bully) and building resilience (changing the victim). If you have read any of my other posts, you would be aware that given choices between trying to change someone else’s behaviour and trying to change our own behaviour or reactions I will always chose the latter. Quite simply because changing ourselves and our reactions to situations is something we have control over whereas trying to change someone else is always difficult.
I believe teaching your child strategies to cope with all forms of bullying is the best way to help them. It not only gives them helpful coping skills but also can increase their self-confidence and self-esteem which are great skills for life. I think it is important to remember that cyberbullying just like traditional bullying is about control, power and getting a reaction. So, take back your control by not relinquishing your power and learn to respond rather than react.
It is beyond the scope of this article to cover all the strategies for dealing with bullying, so I will provide some links to both free and paid resources from some well-respected people in the field of bully prevention.
The first is a free youtube video from Brooks Gibbs and Josh Shipp, both extremely knowledgeable about how to build resilience in your children:
There is also a great book written by one of the leaders in solving bullying issues, Izzy Kalman. His book Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies Into Friends is a comprehensive look at how to stop bullying without help and without getting anyone else in trouble.
This is also a comprehensive book on cyberbullying and online harassment by Chris Bennetts.
For the more academically minded there are links to research on bullying/cyberbullying in the sources section at the end of this article.
Remember no matter how bad things might seem there is always hope. They say knowledge is power or more accurately, applied knowledge is power. So, I would encourage you to learn new strategies and skills for dealing with the poor behaviour of some people. Then pass these skills onto your children. You don’t need money, just a little time and a willingness to have yourself and your loved ones live a happier more peaceful life.
If you or someone you know is at risk of self-harm or suicide due to bullying/cyberbullying then please seek support. A list of helplines is available HERE
Wishing you all the best in your journey
Dooley, J. J., Pyżalski, J., & Cross, D. (2009). Cyberbullying versus face-to-face bullying: A theoretical and conceptual review. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 217(4), 182-188. doi:10.1027/0044-3409.217.4.182
Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., & Frisén, A. (2013). The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.024