Cyber bullying is the use of communication technologies, via the Internet, to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. This happens every day through chat rooms, e-mail messages and within social media networks.
“Cyber bullying is an issue that has emerged in the past few years as a serious safety concern for youth participating in social media,” said Elizabeth Arnold, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Electronic communication may cause some youth to become detached from the reality of the harm and consequences of their actions. Because of its broad reach, bullying through the internet can oftentimes cause more pain and embarrassment for the targeted youth.”
Arnold suggests looking for the following warning signs that indicate a child might be a victim of cyber bullying:
- Unexpectedly stops using the computer,
- Acts nervous or jumpy when an Instant Message, text message or email appears,
- Shows signs of uneasiness about going to school,
- Exhibits strong emotions of anger, depression and frustration after the use of the computer,
- Becomes abnormally withdrawn from friends and family members.
Signs a child is a cyber bully include:
- Quickly switches the screens or closes programs when a parent appears,
- Uses the computer at all hours of the night,
- Gets unusually upset if he/she cannot use the computer,
- Avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer,
- Uses multiple online accounts or one that does not belong to them.
If the child does show signs of being cyber bullied, the following steps can be taken to protect them and prevent its reoccurrence:
- Monitor the child’s use of the computer,
- Make sure the child does not respond to the bully online or face-to-face, Answering threatening messages or copying them will only encourage the bully to continue,
- Save all messages for evidence.
Arnold strongly encourages parents to take an active role in overseeing the electronic communication that their children have with other youth to prevent tragic situations from ever taking place.
For more information on cyber bullying, visit www.stopcyberbullying.org.