Is your child being cyberbullied? Know the signs, and learn what you can do
We’ve all heard the horror stories about cyberbullying. Online bullies, often acting anonymously, pick a target and never let up. They harass, they make threats, they spread rumors on social media.
They make their targets feel rejected, isolated, excluded. It can lead to despair, depression and anxiety, which sometimes can contribute to suicidal behavior.
It is hell to deal with, and too many families know this pain all too well. Many families find themselves wondering how to avoid cyberbullying.
How common is cyberbullying in the United States? Here are some statistics from stopbullying.gov:
- About 9 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 reported they had experienced cyberbullying in a National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics study.
- About 15 percent of high school students were electronically bullied within a year covered by a 2001 study.
- The numbers go way up for LGBTQ students: 55.2 percent experienced cyberbullying, according to the 2011 “National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools.”
June 15 is Stop Cyberbullying Day, a day to speak up as a reminder that bullies thrive when the rest of us are silent or fail to act. At Digital Forensics Corp., we’ve helped clients identify anonymous online bullies, document the harassment and win restraining orders. Some cases can even lead to criminal charges. We’ve heard the anguish from parents, teens and children dealing with online bullies, and want to do our part to help.
How can you tell if your child is being bullied online?
One obstacle to finding solutions to cyberbullying is the silence of the victims. Young people sometimes do not want to talk about the situation, even with a parent or other trusted person. Maybe they are embarrassed. Maybe they are afraid. Maybe they have some other reason, but they often do not want to talk about what is going on, and parents sometimes do not know their child is a victim or know the extent of the bullying.
Even when children or teens don’t want to talk, however, there are some signs that they might be victims of online bullying, or might be bullying others:
- Noticeable, sudden increases or decreases in the amount of time spent online. Your son or daughter may be avoiding online activity for fear of seeing more harassment or checking online more frequently to see if harassment has continued.
- Emotional responses to what a child sees online. Laughter, anger or sadness in reaction to online activity could be a sign that harassment is occurring.
- A child hides the phone, or the screen, when someone comes near: If your son or daughter does not want you to see what’s going on online, it might indicate bullying.
- Social media accounts are suddenly shut down, or new ones appear: Victims of bullying sometimes delete social media accounts in an attempt to escape harassment, and open new ones. Bullies often set up anonymous accounts to use for harassment. They have been known to delete them suddenly if they are concerned about getting caught.
What can you do about online bullying?
The dangers of cyberbullying will never go away entirely, but there are steps you can take to cope, or maybe even stop it, if it is happening to you.
- Get help: There are several resources at StopBullying.gov, including links to help you find mental health counseling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and tips for how you can persuade schools to take bullying seriously.
- Respond quickly: Sometimes one or two harassing incidents a month suddenly escalate to dozens or more a day. Don’t assume it will go away on its own. Grab screen images of the harassment, along with all the information about the account involved that you can, before that evidence disappears.
- Take action: A private digital investigation can help collect the evidence, identify the IP address used by a bully and give you the means to file a complaint and subpoena the bully’s internet service provider to identify the culprit. A restraining order or criminal charges may be possible, depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the harassment. Digital Forensics Corp., 1-800-849-6515, has helped many people deal with cyberbullies.
ELSEWHERE ON OUR BLOG: Modern private investigators must embrace digital forensics skills
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