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What is Cyberbullying?


My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.

This was said by Charlie Chaplin. As a kid, I loved watching his acts. I still do. When I think about bullying this quote certainly rings a bell.

Bullying is when someone shows unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. It is prevalent among school-aged children, and both the kids who are bullied and the ones who bully, may have serious, lasting problems.

Facts about bullying show that about 28% of US students in grades 6-12 and 20% in grades 9-12, have experienced bullying.

Bullying can happen in broadly three different ways but – verbal, physical and social. Whatever be the type, the effects are menacing and if not prevented can have long lasting ramifications.

With the increasing presence of digital and social media in our lives there is a new kind of bullying that we are all too familiar with – Cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets.

About 9% of students in grade 6-12 have experienced cyberbullying, where as 15% of students going to high school (grades 9-12) have experienced it. The percentage goes up to 55% for LGBTQ students. The number that is concerning among all this is only 20% to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.

October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, so we are taking a deep dive into looking at the different aspects of cyberbullying and what it involves.

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing harmful, false, negative or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Before we start talking about preventing it, it is important to identify all the different ways that cyberbullying can happen:

  • SMS (Short Messaging Service) or text sent through personal devices like phone.
  • Apps, or online gaming forums where people can view, participate in or share content.
  • Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
  • Email – you know what they say about emails, is to never forget that there is a real person sitting on the other side of it.

The effects of cyberbullying on the victim is the same as that of bullying. But here are a few ways that cyberbullying is different from bullying.

Given that our digital devices are available to us every second of the day it is difficult to walk away from the torment of cyberbullying. We can be by ourselves and still be accessible to hurtful comments from others. Add the fear of missing out syndrome of a tween or teen and you have a situation where it might get difficult for the child to find relief.

Most of the cyberbullying happen over social channels and for the most part those hurtful comments stay there. It’s not like when someone says something mean to our face we ever forget it but it certainly makes it all the more painful when you have the ability to go back and read them. Talk about reliving your moments of dread.

Bullying is hard to detect as it is. Research shows that most of the bullying activities like name-calling, kicking, teasing or pushing happen when an adult is not looking. The fact that cyberbullying never happens on a playground or in the class makes it all the more difficult to notice. That is because parents and teachers may not overhear or see it happening.

Like all serious matters at hand there is a road to prevention but it needs effort – from ME and YOU. Watch this space because in the next edition we will be taking a closer look at how we can prevent cyberbullying from happening.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

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