Dr. Gellner: Dealing with cyberbullying can be tricky these days. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope with tips for kids and parents to prevent and stop cyberbullying.
Interviewer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.
Dr. Gellner: Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to schoolyards or street corners. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere, even at home, via email, text messages, cell phones, and social media websites. Can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with potentially hundreds of people involved. The effects can be devastating for the victim, feeling hurt, humiliated, angry, depressed, or even suicidal.
No type of bullying should ever be tolerated. Today we'll discuss tips to help protect yourself and your child online so you could deal with the growing problem of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses any form of digital technology to harass, threaten, or humiliate another person. Unlike tradition bullying, cyberbullying does not require physical strength or face-to-face contact and is not just limited to a handful of witnesses. Anyone with an internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else often without having to reveal their true identity.
Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere do that no place, not even home, ever feels safe. And with a few clicks, the humiliation can be witnessed by countless people online.
If you or a loved one is currently the victim of cyberbullying, it's important to remember that you are not alone. As many as one in three teenagers has been cyberbullied at some point in their lives.
As with traditional bullying, boys and girls cyberbully but tend to do so in different ways. Boys tend to bully by sexting girls or sending messages that threaten physical harm to another child, a boy or a girl. Girls on the other hand more commonly cyberbully by spreading lies and rumors, exposing one's secrets, or excluding the victim from emails, buddy lists or other electronic communication.
In many cases, cyberbullying can be even more painful than face-to-face bullying. They can feel like there's no escape from being teased. A lot of cyberbullying can be done anonymously so you may not be sure who exactly is targeting you. This can make you feel even more threatened and can embolden the bullies as they believe online and anonymity means they're less likely to get caught.
Since cyberbullies can't see your reaction, they will often go much further in their harassment or ridicule than they would do face-to-face with you. Cyberbullying can be potentially seen by thousands of people. Emails can be forwarded over and over and social media posts can often be seen by anyone. The more far reaching the bullying, the more humiliating it can become.
Gay and lesbian youths are more particularly at risk for cyberbullying. If you are targeted by cyberbullies, it is important to not respond to any messages or posts written about you no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse. Getting a reaction from you is exactly what the cyberbullies want. So don't give them the satisfaction of knowing how they hurt you.
It is also very important that you don't seek revenge on a cyberbully by becoming a cyberbully yourself. Again, it would only make the problem worse and it could result in serious legal consequences for you. Remember, if you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online.
Instead of responding to cyberbullying, save the evidence of the cyberbullying and report it to a trusted adult. If you don't report incidents, the cyberbully would often become more aggressive. Be especially sure to reports threats of harm and inappropriate sexual messages to the police. In many cases, the cyberbully's actions can be prosecuted by law.
Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents. It is far more likely to be a sustained attack on you over a period of time. So you too may have to be relentless and report each and every bullying incident until it stops. There is no reason for you to ever put up with cyberbullying.
You can prevent communication from the cyberbully by blocking their email address, cell phone number and deleting them from social media contacts. Report their activities to the internet service provider or to any social media they use to target you. The cyberbully's actions may constitute a violation of the website's terms of service, or may even result in criminal charges against them.
If you are being cyberbullied, remember it is not your fault. No matter what a cyberbully says or does, you should not be ashamed of who you are or what you feel. The cyberbully is the person with the problem, not you. Remember, someone who is a cyberbully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don't give them the satisfaction.
Don't make being cyberbullied worse by dwelling on it by reading a message over and over. Instead, delete any messages and focus on positive experiences. There are many wonderful things about you to be so proud of who you are. Talk to a trusted adult, see a counselor, and seeing a counselor does not mean there's something wrong with you. It means you're taking charge of your own happiness and doing what is right for you.
Exercise, meditation, positive self-talk, and breathing exercises are all good ways to manage the stress from cyberbullying. Do something fun. The more time you spend doing activities you enjoy, such as sports, hobbies, or hanging out with friends who do not participate in cyberbullying, the less influence the cyberbully will have on your life.
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