School is out. Parents everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. All the drama of school life and bullying is over, at least until the fall, right? I am sorry to say this, but actually, probably not. If left unchecked, your child’s exposure to cyberbullying will only increase with their mobile device usage.
According to a new McAfee survey, Teens and the Screen, a teens mobile device usage skyrockets over the summer months, spending most of their time on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (in that order). According to the study, as their screen time continues to climb, so too will their exposure to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is growing at an eye-popping rate—tripling in fact—with 87% of teens surveyed citing they witnessed cyberbullying this year versus 27% last year.
Also unsettling are the reasons kids are being bullied online. Of those who responded to being bullied, 72% stated it was over appearance, 26% answered bullying was due to race or religion, and 22% stated their sexuality prompted the bullying.
The survey highlighted a much larger issue for teens and families and that is that online conflict is following kids offline with 52% of teens admitting to fights offline because of something posted on social media, a number that up 19% from last year. This is especially concerning when we are seeing YouTube videos of fights that are occurring in our neighborhoods. A recent publicized assault captured on YouTube in Ladera Ranch, California, is a good example of this.
Of those who were bullied, 53% said they became angry or defensive, 47% deleted their social media account, 43% became less social, 16% sought professional help or therapy, and 14% harmed themselves. Nearly a fourth of teens surveyed, (23%) admitted they would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.
How to Keep Your Children Safe From Cyberbullying
1. Parents, you must talk to your children about cyber safety. I recommend using Cyber Safety Cop’s Internet Usage Contract as a starting point. See my blog post on using the Internet Usage Contract.
2. Make profiles and photos private and only allow people your child actually knows to follow/friend them. See my blog post on reviewing your child’s followers list.
3. Avoid risky apps. Apps like Ask.fm that allow outsiders to ask a user any question anonymously should be off limits to kids. Kik Messenger is also a bad idea. Users have a degree of anonymity with these kinds of apps because they have usernames instead of real names and they can easily connect with profiles that could be (and often are) fake. Both apps have been connected to multiple cyberbullying and suicide cases.
3 Things to Do if Bullied Online
1. Tell someone. Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult. Many teens keep quiet when being bullied which often leads to more bullying and communicates to others that she is fair game for bullying. Encourage your child to come to you at the first sign of bullying or conflict online. Monitor her online circles and assess the tone of her online conversations. She will not be able to discern some sarcasm and cruelty the way you will. Being the object of a cyberbully creates fear, humiliation, and often leads to isolation so your child will rarely be the first to speak up about it. Until they have the skills, parents need to monitor and coach kids online. Start early and be consistent and they will gain their communication chops sooner than later.
2. Save the evidence. Print copies of messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages and take screen shots of posts or comments on social networks.
3. Report to online platform, to school and/or police. Report the cyberbully to the social network in the Help section. If the perpetrator is another student, share evidence with the school counselor. Report the cyberbullying to the police or cyber crime unit in your area if the cyberbullying contains threats, intimidation or sexual exploitation.