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Effects Of Cyberbullying On Children

LAKSHMI on October 06, 2020

Teenage girl feeling distressed

Why is cyberbullying a serious problem?

It is well-established, both objectively and from experience, that the effects of cyberbullying are serious and cannot be ignored. The effects of cyberbullying range from social withdrawal to suicides and are exacerbated by the boundaryless nature of the Internet. Statistics compiled this year by comparitech after 20,793 interviews with children and parents worldwide shows that on an average, 50% of children/adolescents in the age groups of 6-18 have been bullied in real life and cyberspace, with the latter increasing in recent years. 

Governments across the world have considered it important to address the effects of cyberbullying.  For example, in the US, StopBullying.gov is a government resource that aims at addressing and treating unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children both in the real world and in cyberspace.  

Why do people bully others?

As Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot would say, “it is the psychology I seek, not the fingerprint or the cigarette ash”.  Some common psychological traits exhibited by bullies include: 

  • Absence of empathy for others.

  • The need to feel powerful over others.

  • The need to be popular.

  • Perceiving or experiencing poor relationships with parents and caregivers.

  • Feeling insecure either inherently, or through unmet parental expectations.

  • Feeling unsafe in their homes or schools because of having been bullied themselves.

While psychological profiling of their child may not be possible by a lay-parent,  there are some signs of a bully that can be identified.  

  • Hyperactivity – the correlation need not be true all the time but coupled with other signs and symptoms, can be used to recognize bullying tendencies.

  • Poor control of emotions - bullies have difficulty managing emotions, especially anger.

  • Having difficulty following rules and showing disrespect towards authority figures.

  • Hanging out with a group or clique that is known to bully others.

  • Engaging in melodrama.  This is particularly true of girls among whom mean girls, fake friends, and frenemies are often causes of serious drama, which may be associated with subtle or not-so-subtle acts of bullying.

  • Exaggerated “good” behavior in front of adults.  While “good behavior” is always welcome, a parent can usually spot put-on good behavior, which could point to underlying bullying tendencies when the adult is not around.  

What are the types of bullying behavior?

Real life bullying and cyberbullying take on many forms:

  • Physical: This includes real-life actions such as kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, and other physical attacks that are easy to spot and tackle.

  • Verbal: May occur in both real life and the cyberworld and includes name-calling and using insults to belittle, demean, and hurt another person.

  • Relational:  Common among tween and teenage girls in real and cyberlife, it involves ostracizing others from a group, spreading rumors, manipulating situations, and breaking confidences to feel popular and/or powerful.

  • Sexual:  Such real-life and cyberbullying include sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning or sexting, and sharing pornographic materials to an unwilling recipient. In extreme cases, sexual bullying could lead to sexual assault.

  • Prejudicial:  Targeting based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.

What are the effects of cyberbullying on the victim?

The maxim, “sticks and stones may break bones but words cannot hurt” is no longer valid because the psychological damages to children caused by bullying and cyberbullying have been proven beyond doubt.   

Children and youngsters being bullied often show one or more of the following behavior:

  • Depression and anxiety with increased feelings of sadness and loneliness that may manifest as melancholia or isolation.  It’s important to remember that psychiatric problems caused by bullying can lead to extreme behavior such as self-harm and even suicide.

  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.

  • A “love-hate” relationship with devices – the compulsive need to check device coupled with agitation.

  • Health complaints such as stomach pain, headaches,  digestive problems, losing weight, gaining weight, eating disorders etc.

  • Decreased academic achievement— lower GPA and standardized test scores.

  • Missing, skipping, or dropping out of school.

What are the effects of cyberbullying on the bullies themselves?

Children and youngsters who engage in bullying and cyberbullying behavior may grow up to have the following traits:

  • Substance abuse – drugs, alcohol, sex.

  • Violence: abusive, vandalizing and destructive behavior.

  • Relationship problems:  abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults.

  • Criminal behavior: unchecked bullying could lead to legal transgressions later on.

How can we help as parents and guardians?

  • Establishing open communication.  It is important to reinforce to children that no one deserves to be bullied and it’s not their fault for being bullied. 

  • Educating children about cyberbullying effects. Here are 21 videos to help you discuss bullying with your children.

  • Encouraging them to talk to a teacher if the bullying is in school or related to school.

  • Teaching them to take screen shots of the cyber bullying and submitting them as proof to the authorities at school, to the relevant social media networks or to the concerned law-enforcement agencies.

  • Knowing our children’s friends and social circle and ensuring that they interact with people they know and like. 

  • Ensuring that our children know the right way to use the internet and social media.

  • Teaching children about mutual respect and tolerance to differences by our words and actions.

With the increasing prevalence and serious effects of cyberbullying, there are now laws that aim to protect children and youngsters in the digital world.  As adults, we need to be aware of the laws and policies in our states and countries, and we must communicate these to our children so that they are neither the perpetrators nor the victims of this social evil.

 

Writing credit: Authored by Lakshmi, a Mobicip mom who researches extensively on digital citizenship and internet safety.

Keep in touch with the latest on parenting, technology, and education. Subscribe to the Mobicip newsletter. Learn more at www.mobicip.com.

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