Cyberbullying in the Spotlight During National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention month, and this year the need to fight cyberbullying has taken on an entirely new importance.

Bowling Green, Ky (October 23, 2020) – With the emergence of COVID-19 and the sense of anxiety that it brought, mental health issues have been on the rise. Nationally, over half of Americans reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. In addition, thousands of students are taking classes from home, requiring them to be connected to the internet on a daily basis. This combination of stressors at home and increased screen time means many school-age children are experiencing cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can take a number of forms, taking place on cell phones, tablets, and computers through social media, texts, apps, or anyplace where people can view and share content behind the mask of online anonymity. With nearly every teen in America (97%) connected to at least one of the major social media platforms, the opportunity for cyberbullies to act out is nearly ubiquitous. As a result, two out of three Americans (66%) said they had witnessed someone being bullied or harassed online, while more than one in three school-age teens say they have been bullied themselves online.

Helping a child deal with cyberbullying can be difficult; aggressors can often be anonymous, while targets of cyberbullying are often shamed into silence. Still, there are things that parents can do to help their children avoid (or deal with) cyberbullies:

  • Stay informed about your children’s online activities, including social media usage, online friends, and new apps they want to use.
  • Talk with your children on a regular basis about online activities, stressing the importance of online safety, cybersecurity, and the potential effects of social media usage (both good and bad).
  • If your child is being bullied online, tell them not to respond to those comments; save the evidence by capturing images or saving the text and online handles of cyberbullies.
  • Listen, listen, LISTEN if your child says they are being bullied online; support them and let them know that you will work with them to find a solution. This may involve talking to your child’s school or (if the abuse becomes threatening, involves threats of violence, results in illegal activity like sharing hacked information, or the bullying continues to escalate), reaching out to local law enforcement.

Sources: The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use, “Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences”, “Online Harassment 2017”, cyberbullying.org.

Chris McGovern is the Connected Nation Director of Research Development. He works with Connected Nation staff and external stakeholders to develop research deliverables and provide critical analysis. He uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret data, formulate reports, and make substantiated recommendations based on research findings.

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