Cyberbullying: What it is and How to Help

8 Nov by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Cyberbullying, sometimes referred to as online bullying, is when a person shares harmful, hurtful, or false information about another person using a digital device, such as a cell phone, computer, or tablet. Cyberbullying can occur via direct emails or messages, online forums, social media platforms, or any other online space where people can view, participate in, and share content. At HPA/LiveWell In Albany, New York, we recognize the immense impact cyberbullying can have and strive to increase awareness on this very serious issue.

Digital devices provide easy access to others and ongoing communication with others. This means those who are being bullied may get very little relief.  Yet victims of cyberbullying are not the only ones affected. In fact, cyberbullying can have longstanding effects on all parties involved, including the individual doing the bullying. Most internet communication is permanent (unless reported and removed), and essentially becomes public record. This public record may then be accessed by schools, employers, and other institutions, potentially affecting a person’s life well into the future.

Cyberbullying Statistics

With the prevalence of digital forums and social media sites, cyberbullying has become increasingly common, especially with young people. Data on social media bullying facts shows that in 2018, approximately 15% of students (grades 9 through 12) reported being cyberbullied in the past year. Studies indicate females are more likely than males to be the victim of electronic bullying, while males are more likely to be bullied in person.

Because cyberbullying is increasing among young people, many assume teenagers are the only ones affected. Yet there are other vulnerable populations who are overall more susceptible to this form of bullying including those with special needs and/or learning disabilities, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.

How to Help Someone Who is Being Cyberbullied

If you or someone you know is the victim of cyberbullying, there are some important steps you can take.

  • Save the evidence – if you are being bullied online, then there is a good chance you can save the evidence.
  • Ask for help – if the bullying is affecting your daily life or overall well-being, ask for support from a trusted friend, family member, or teacher/mentor.
  • Tell the person to stop – while not everyone will feel comfortable doing this, it is OK to tell the person who is bullying you to stop.
  • Use blocking services and report the bullying – many social media sites give users the option to “block” another user. If this is not possible, contact the website/social media platform/app directly for advice on what to do. Also, report the bullying and (if applicable) ask for the content to be removed.
  • Report the cyberbullying – Cyberbullying is a form of aggression, and in some cases, it crosses the line into criminal behavior.

But what if you are the parent of a child who is participating in cyberbullying? It can be difficult to know what to do.  And while no parent wants to think of their child hurting others, it is important to take action.

What Parents can Do to Help Prevent Cyberbullying

  • Communicate – it is vital to clearly communicate your request that they stop engaging in online bullying. It can be difficult not to get upset (overreact, yell, etc.). Yet, if you want your child to hear you, try to maintain a sense of calm.
  • Educate – educate your child on the damaging effects of cyberbullying.
  • Seek support – bullying (in any form) is often a symptom of something deeper going on. Identifying a mental health professional for your child to talk to could help get to the root cause(s) of the cyberbullying.
  • Don’t label – when talking to your child about bullying, be sure not to label them “a bully”; bullying is a behavior they are engaging in, it is not who they are as a person.
  • Find resources – reach out to your community’s school(s) and other local organizations to see if they offer a cyberbullying program. If not, advocate for the start of one.

To find out more about cyberbullying, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, contact us at 518-218-1188.