Written by: Jason Jowers, MS, MFT
There are so many ways for kids and teens to connect online. It’s more than just social media platforms; there are chatrooms, instant and direct messaging apps, and online video games. For military families, these virtual spaces are great ways for kids and teens to stay connected to a deployed parent or service member, as well as ways to stay connected with long-distance friends.
However, these online areas share the hazards of being places where bullying behaviors from peers can happen. Although traditional bullying behaviors encompass physical threats and harm, cyberbullying behaviors share many of the same instances of harm. Cyberbullying is defined as the use of electronic communication to bully someone, typically by sending intimidating or threatening messages (American Psychological Association, 2022). Being a victim of cyberbullying often has long-lasting effects on kids and teens, especially when the bullying behavior takes place over a long period. Cyberbullying leads to anxiety and depression, and in severe cases, it leads to self-harm and even suicide.
Cyberbullying Safety Resources for Kids and Teens
Knowing the long-term effects of cyberbullying and bullying in general, what are some ways that parents, teachers, and mental health practitioners can provide safeguards against these behaviors and mitigate the long-term effects? Below are some suggested safety strategies to share with kids and teens.
- The Choose Kindness Project has resources and toolkits for parents as well as educators and providers to lean on when helping kids and teens with the effects of cyberbullying. The Educator and Coach Toolkit is a great tool to prevent cyberbullying and can be implemented in working with families to keep kids safe at home.
- The American Psychological Association shares an article on what cyberbullying is and how it affects the mental health of children and teens. They share ways that parents can talk to their kids about cyberbullying, how and where to report it, and the legal ramifications of such behaviors/actions. They also share helpful links to other organizations helping to stop bullying and cyberbullying behaviors for youth.
- Unicef also has a great article featuring specialists, international cyberbullying, and child protection experts, who answer some of the most common questions about online bullying and give advice on ways to deal with it. Many of the questions include “I’m experiencing cyberbullying, but I’m afraid to talk to my parents about it. How can I approach them?” and “Are there any online anti-bullying tools for children or young people?”
Bullying continues to be a pervasive issue for many children and teens across the country and abroad. The consensus is that as long as we continue to educate youth about bullying prevention, we will continue to build prevention safety and positive habits.
We recently hosted a OneOp webinar with Dr. Dorothy Espelage entitled “Building a Safer Future: Insights on Youth Violence and Bullying Prevention” that reviews two decades of research and practice on bullying and cyberbullying, including definitional issues, prevalence, risk, and protective factors associated with different forms of bullying. Additionally, this presentation discusses rates of these behaviors and identifies common intervention targets.
Finally, we have a follow-up webinar with Dr. Espelage entitled “Bullying as a Developmental Precursor to Sexual and Dating Violence Across Adolescence” that focuses on the bully-sexual violence pathway (Bully-SV pathway), where bullying is a precursor for harmful sexual behaviors. Free continuing education opportunities are available for both of these webinars.
Abramson, A. (2022). “Cyberbullying: What is it and how can you stop it?” American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/bul...-online-social-media
The Choose Kindness Project (2023). The Educator and Coach Toolkit. Retrieved from: https://www.thechoosekindnessp...r-and-coach-toolkit/
Unicef (2023). “Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it.” Unicef. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/end-vio...top-cyberbullying#11
Blog Post Image: Pixabay [Cyberbullying, photo by HtcHnm, Nov. 25th, 2020, CC0]
Jason M. Jowers
Co-Principal Investigator, OneOp