What is Cyberbullying?

Nowadays, more than 80% of American households have access to the internet via subscription.  Even those who do not have access to the internet at home likely can still use the internet in public places such as libraries or schools.  The internet and social media platforms have essentially taken over our lives.  With that being said, it is safe to assume your teen has access to the internet in some form or another.  While the internet has been an incredible advancement in technology and useful in many ways, it can be both a blessing and a curse.  What do I mean by this?  Online bullying, otherwise known as cyberbullying, has become the modern-day form of harassment.  Cyberbullying is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means.  This can include sending harmful messages, hacking into others social media accounts, spreading rumors or secrets about others online, and more.  Today, we will explore the effects of cyberbullying, warning signs, and how you can help if you suspect your child may be experiencing cyberbullying.  

Signs/Effects of Cyberbullying

Being able to hide behind a screen makes it easier for perpetrators to say or send hurtful messages, because they don’t actually have to say it to the other person’s face.  However, cyberbullying’s ability to be able to hide behind a screen can make it difficult for you to identify when cyberbullying is taking place.  Here are some of the common warning signs that cyberbullying is taking place in your child’s life:

  1. Becomes upset, sad, or angry after being online or using their phone
  2. Withdrawal from family or friends
  3. Reluctant to participate in regular activities or go to school
  4. Makes excuses to not have to go out
  5. Has an unexplained decline in grades
  6. Shows symptoms of depression or sadness

All of these may be red flags to look out for if you suspect your child may be experiencing cyberbullying of some form.  Bullying is one of the most common reasons your child may be withdrawing from activities or reluctant to go to school.  Cyberbullying can be particularly dangerous because it can be hard to escape from as it even follows you home from school.  It is important that this issue is handled properly, and your child gets the help they need if they are experiencing cyberbullying.  Overtime cyberbullying can lead to victims developing a variety of psychological struggles including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loneliness or Isolation 
  • Social Phobias
  • Poor academic performance    
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse

Cyberbullying can manifest into psychological, emotional, and physical stress.  If cyberbullying is occurring in your child’s life, it is important that this issue be addressed and handled in order to ensure your child’s wellbeing.

Platforms for Cyberbullying 

In today’s day and age, there are many social media platforms commonly used by teens that may be sources of cyberbullying.  In 2020, the most commonly downloaded social media apps in the U.S. were:

  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat

With social medias’ increasing prevalence and popularity amongst adolescents these platforms are increasingly becoming outlets for cyberbullying.  A whopping 3 out of 4 of teens report having at least 1 active social media account and over half of all teens report visiting social media sites daily.  Why is this a problem?  Roughly 60 percent of teenagers report having experienced cyberbullying at least once, and these attacks usually take place publicly on social media platforms.  Social media platforms make it easy for cyberbullying attacks to reach a large number of people, not just the individual being targeted.  This can make cyberbullying attacks more harmful and social media may play a large role in the heightened prevalence of cyberbullying amongst teenagers.

In fact, excessive use of social media on its own can lead to a number of mental health concerns. Social media was designed to be a platform to create more connections, sharing ideas, thoughts, and information through a virtual network.  However, ironically spending too much time on social media can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated.  This happens because on social media we tend to display the best parts of ourselves and our lives, leaving others feeling inadequate.      

How to Help Cyberbullying

If you believe you yourself or your teen may be experiencing cyberbullying it is important to get help.  Here are some tips and tricks to help support yourself or your loved one if they are experiencing any form of cyberbullying.

  • Cyberbullying is not the victim’s fault:  Sometimes arguments may occur due to a conflict between 2 or more people.  However, if someone is being repeatedly cruel to you online or in person that is not dealing with the conflict appropriately and is in fact bullying.  You should never blame yourself for someone else treating you poorly. 
  • Do not respond or retaliate: Oftentimes when someone is bullying another, they look for a reaction to make them feel empowered. Additionally, retaliating can create a chain reaction of mean responses, causing the cyberbullying attack to go on for much longer and create more damage. 
  • Reach out for help:  It is important that if you or your child is experiencing cyberbullying that they receive support in order to put an end to the problem and reduce the risk of harmful effects or mental health struggles due to cyberbullying.  One of the best things you can do as a parent is listen and offer your support.  
  • Use tech tools or delete social media accounts:  Deleting social media may sound a bit rash and “not an option” for some, however social media in itself can have a lot of damaging effects on your wellbeing and deleting these accounts may be the quickest way to escape cyberbullying.  Although if you don’t want to delete your social media account as a whole you can block or report the person(s) that are harassing you.  However, if you are getting serious threats such as physical harm, blocking the person may not be the best course of action and it may be time to get local authorities involved.
  • Have discussions about online issues:  Let your child know that you are there for them and they can come to you if they are receiving inappropriate, dangerous, or upsetting messages online.  Also be sure to have discussions with your children about the importance of not making inappropriate or aggressive posts online themselves, and how to deal with conflict appropriately. 

blueFire is Here to Help

blueFire is a wilderness therapy program designed to help adolescents work through issues ranging from cyberbullying to substance abuse or mental health concerns.  Wilderness therapy works by removing teens from their current environment and placing them in the calming environment of the natural world, teaching them to build life skills and find new healthy coping mechanisms.  Our program can be extremely helpful for teens experiencing the effects of cyberbullying as it removes them from the world of technology and allows them to become immersed in the wilderness, allowing students the time and space to cope and process their issues.  

For more information about how blueFire handles cyberbullying in teens, please call 1(844) 413-1999 

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