Cyberbullying kills. There’s simply no way to sugarcoat that tragic fact. In addition to being driven to suicide, victims of online bullying suffer damage to their self-esteem. Many become depressed and withdrawn. The web which had been a place to play games, listen to music, read, and interact with friends suddenly becomes an unsafe place.
There is good news though. Everyone has the power to help stop cyberbullying, help those who have been targeted, and ensure that everyone can use the internet safely, especially young people. If you are a parent, teacher, friend, young person, or simply a bystander, there are things you can do to help.
Contribute to a Kinder And More Accepting Internet
Young people are influenced by what they see on the internet. Unfortunately, what they often see is judgemental, crass, and unkind. All too often, this is couched in humor. Kids see adults sharing embarrassing stories, pictures, and videos on Facebook, for example. They visit sites like ‘People of Walmart’ and see pictures of unsuspecting people in unfortunate moments. How can they see those things and not get the impression that it’s okay to make fun of people?
While these sites and behaviors will never go away completely, parents can control what their kids see them do. Simply thinking twice before liking or sharing a post that could be hurtful or embarrassing can make a big difference. So can telling kids why you made that decision.
The same can also be said for rants and arguments. You may have the perfect comment to skewer somebody online, but is it something you really need to post? The more young people see adults taking the high road or treating on another charitably the better. Kids already witness plenty of online cruelty.
Know The Tools You Can Use to Protect Yourself And Others
Figuring out how to stop cyberbullying on Facebook and other social media sites can be challenging. Fortunately, you can access your accounts to set privacy restrictions. By blocking people, unfriending them, and restricting who can see your posts and pictures, you take away the bully's access to harass you or find information to use against you. Parents should also help kids set up social media accounts when they are old enough to ensure that they have appropriate privacy settings.
In addition to this, parents can use apps to ensure that kids are safe on the net, behave appropriately, and don’t access sites where they could be targeted for bullying. These include apps such as Mobicip and NetNanny.
Learn About Resources That Can Help
Fortunately, there is lots of great information out there for you to help to stop cyberbullying. In fact, there are probably plenty of resources right in your own community. Check with local Boys and Girls clubs or other community groups. Local police departments may have officers available to address students on the subject of cyberbullying and internet safety. Even the United States government has a stop bullying initiative through the StopBullying.gov website.
Be a Voice in Your Community
Does your local school district have an anti-bullying policy? Are kids receiving education about safe and healthy behavior online? Are there issues with bullies on the playground? If not, write letters, attend school board meetings, and voice your concerns. The same goes for the community at large. For example, it’s hard to protect kids online at home, if the computers in the children’s library allow unrestricted access to social media. Remember that stopping cyberbullying is the responsibility of parents, but also of law enforcement, educators, and other members of each community.
The first case of cyberbullying probably happened more than twenty years ago. Unfortunately, in all of those years, the response to this troublesome phenomenon has failed to adequately address this issue. Hopefully, more people will be motivated to take an active role in putting an end to cyberbullying.