Bullying is not a new topic and one that has been pretty prominent in the news lately. We have all lived bullying, on one end or the other, but today’s bullying has a whole new form that we never had to worry about- online bullying. As a parent, I feel pretty confident about relating to my kids when they feel left out in the school lunch room or scared to run into a bully in the hallways, but not so much when it comes to the whole “online social life” of today’s adolescent.
An article on ParentFuther.com tells us more about this topic. First, we learn how to recognize bullying as opposed to conflict between peers.
Bullying is a complex problem, but there are good tools and resources that can help parents, educators, and caring adults identify bullying behavior. Did you know that there are four, specific characteristics that can qualify a situation as bullying? The behavior has to be intentional, be repetitive, be hurtful, and involve an imbalance of power.
Intentional—Children can hurt other children by accident. Bullying, however, is always intentional and meant to cause some sort of harm, whether it is physical or verbal. This behavior may persist even after the victim has asked the bully to stop.
Repetitive—In most cases, bullying happens repeatedly. Bullies often target children who they know will not do anything about the behavior, so they can continue bullying as long as they like.
Hurtful—Bullying is a negative behavior that may include physical or verbal harm. The types of hurtful behavior that qualify as bullying are varied, but they all cause harm of some sort to the victim.
Imbalance of power—If two children hold an equal amount of power, one cannot bully the other. This imbalance of power can come from different sources, including age, size, strength, and social status.
And then we learn more about cyberbullying, or bullying online, and how it differs from the bullying most of us adults have experienced. I feel for these kids just reading about this stuff!
Characteristics of Cyberbullying:
First, cyberbullying can be anonymous: youth who are being cyberbullied may not even know who the bully is, or specifically why they are being targeted.
Second, the impact of cyberbullying can be wider-reaching than bullying done in person. The speed and breadth of the internet have permitted groups of youth to create websites just to make fun of other young people, to impersonate other teens on social media sites, and to circulate embarrassing photos, all within a matter of minutes.
Finally, cyberbullies can be teens who might not otherwise have engaged in bullying behaviors. It is often easier to be cruel when the bully is sheltered from their target’s responses which can over time include devastating consequences such as withdrawal from family and friends, depression, diminished performance in school and in the most severe cases, self-harming behavior and even suicide.
Online bullying is very real and parents will be wise to pay attention and get educated on the topic. If we are going to help our kids, we must learn to identify the problem and know resources and actions to help them. The impact and danger of being bullied online shouldn’t be dismissed.