Emily Daligga, M.D.
Internal Medicine, Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine (Children)
Technology, including texting, social media and online gaming, is pervasive and essential, even for kids and teens. While social media can be a great way for kids to connect, these apps and websites also can be avenues for cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a pattern of repeatedly sending or spreading threatening or mean messages, rumors or embarrassing photos by electronic methods. Cyberbullying is a greater risk as kids and adolescents use technology more, especially when they're physically isolated, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It can be harder to identify cyberbullying and just as damaging as face-to-face bullying. And since it can happen 24/7, cyberbullying is harder to avoid.
Approximately 15% of students have experienced cyberbullying in the previous year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System report.
These tips can help protect your children:
Teach and model for your children that it's just as important to treat others with respect online as it is in person. Instruct your children not to respond to cyberbullying messages. Encourage them to block anyone who takes part in cyberbullying, and keep evidence of cyberbullying and share the evidence with you.
- Set expectations.
Establish rules about phone and internet use, including what types of platforms, apps and sites are off limits. Let your children know that you may look at their devices if you have concerns. Help them set up appropriate location and privacy settings. Let them know it's unacceptable to participate in cyberbullying.
With their advance knowledge, view the sites your children use and follow your children on social media.
- Know the signs.
Warning signs of cyberbullying include seeming depressed or upset after spending time online and trying to avoid school or social situations.
Write down dates, times and nature of concerning messages. Take screenshots of cyberbullying messages in case you need to report the behavior. Don't forward or respond to cyberbullying messages.
- Offer reassurance.
Assure your children you want to keep them safe and won't take away their devices if they report cyberbullying. Support your children, even if the content of the cyberbullying or your child's initial response is uncomfortable or embarrassing. Help your children offer support if they witness others being cyberbullied.
Be willing to contact school officials or website service providers if cyberbullying persists. Report evidence of criminal activity to law enforcement, such as threats of violence or sexually explicit material involving minors. Consult your state laws and law enforcement for guidance.