Cyber bullying has become a serious problem in the UK and around the world. Many serious cyber bullying stories have come to light in the UK within the past few years, such as the story of Daniel Perry, a 17-year-old boy who committed suicide after being blackmailed and bullied online. Since online bullying comes with so many serious consequences, parents must learn the facts about cyber bullying, taking measures to prevent cyber bullying before it begins.
What is Cyber Bullying?
What is cyber bullying? Cyber bullying involves using technological devices, such as video game systems, computers, cellphones, or tablets, to bully another individual. According to BullyingUK, this type of bullying may take place on various mediums, including:
- Online games
- Online social networks, such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, and other networks
- Chat rooms
- Text messaging
- Instant messaging
Cyber bullying can include many different actions, and some of the most common examples of online bullying include:
- Disclosing personal information of another individual without consent
- Mocking, belittling, or defaming
- Impersonating another individual
- Ostracism or exclusion
- Spreading rumors
- Heated exchanges
- Threatening to harm an individual
- Sharing humiliating videos or images
- Sending unsuitable content
- Accessing another individual’s accounts
- Sending someone computer viruses
- Creating fake profiles in order to harass or bully another individual
- Making derogatory or abuse remarks online
Cyber Bullying Facts – What Makes Cyber bullying Different?
It’s important to understand that cyber bullying differs from other types of bullying. Unfortunately, these differences often make cyber bullying more destructive than other forms of bullying. Ditch The Label’s UK study found that 70% of UK youth report that cyber bullying has catastrophic effects on their social lives and self-esteem. Some of the features of cyber bullying that make it different and dangerous include:
- A Large Audience – When cyber bullying occurs online, electronically circulated messages have the ability to reach a very large audience. It is also very difficult to control electronic content, and it is often difficult for victims to move on because they worry that content will resurface in the future.
- Cyber bullying Can Occur 24/7 – Unlike other types of bullying, cyber bullying can occur 24/7, and this type of bullying can invade an individual’s home. Victims no longer have a place where they feel safe, since online bullying can introduce into any space.
- Bullies Can Remain Anonymous – In many cases, bullies are able to remain anonymous, and anonymity often makes bullies even more vicious because they do not fear being caught.
- Permanence of Offensive Material – It can be extremely difficult to eliminate offense material from the internet if a cyberbully makes it public. Once a rumor, video, or photo is in cyberspace, it has the potential to be there forever.
- It’s Often More Difficult to Stop Online Bullies – Since so many cyber bullies hide behind anonymity, it is often more difficult to stop online bullies.
Cyber Bullying Statistics UK
Many parents are shocked to find out how prevalent cyber bullying is within the UK. Statistics show that many children and teens experience online bullying. The following are a few of the cyber bullying statistics in the UK:
- 70% of children and teens have been victims of online bullying according to Ditch the Label.
- BullyingUK reports that 5% of kids and teens who have been victimized by a cyber bully have engaged in self harm.
- A study by Noret and River found that 15% of young people have been the victims of aggressive or sinister texts or emails. This study also found that problems with cyber bullying continue to grow worse every year.
- Approximately 20% of teens and kids deal with extreme cyber bullying every day.
- Studies show that young people are more likely to be bullied on Facebook than any other social networking site.
- Researchers estimate that approximately 5.43 million UK teens and kids have experienced cyber bullying.
Understanding Cyber Bullying Laws in the UK
Certain laws within the UK do cover problems with cyber bullying. For example, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 requires that all state schools within the UK have their own anti-bullying policies. These policies are to include processes that deal with cyber bullying against pupils and teachers.
Although cyber bullying is not currently a specific criminal offence within the UK, other laws, such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 or the Harassment Act 1997, may apply to cyber bullying that includes threatening or harassing behavior. Sending offense emails may be considered a crime under the Malicious Communications Act. The Communications Act 2003 states that sending a message via a public electronic communications network that is “grossly offense or of an indecent obscene or menacing character” is a criminal offence.
Cyber Bullying for Kids
Parents need to educate their children on cyber bullying, and they also need to teach children how to prevent this problem. One of the most important things UK parents should do is sit down and talk to kids about cyber bullying, explaining to their children what cyber bullying is, why it’s wrong, and what they should do if they are bullies online. Parents can also send their children to helpful websites that offer cyber bullying articles that are specifically written for kids and teens, such as BullyingUK. Important information and tips parents should share with their kids include:
- Always be respectful of others. Be careful in the images you send and the words that you send online.
- Keep passwords to yourself. Never share passwords with friends.
- Only give out your website address, social media information, or cellphone number to trusted family members or friends.
- Remember that things posted online may stay there forever, so think twice before you post or send.
- Do not reply to bullies or retaliate.
- Make sure you save any evidence of cyber bullying, such as offending pictures, harassing messages, or online conversations.
- More than 4,500 kids and teens in the UK talked to ChildLine about cyber bullying within the past year, and you can call ChildLine free of charge at any time by dialing 0800 1111.
- If you are a victim of cyber bullying, do not be afraid to tell a trusted adult. Talk to your parents immediately.
- If you see someone else being bullied online, make sure that you support that individual by reporting the cyber bullying.
How to Prevent Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying has significant effects on children and teens, and teens and children surveyed in the UK report that cyber bullying significantly affects their home life, studies, social life, and optimism. The best way to eliminate this problem is to take measures to prevent cyber bullying. Parents must take measures to keep children and teens from being victims. Some of the important tips parents can use to prevent cyber bullying include:
- Tip #1 – Be a Good Example – Make sure that you are a good example when using technology. Avoid harassing or joking about other people when you use technology. Your kids will learn a lot from the way you behave when using technology.
- Tip #2 – Educate Your Child – You need to take time to educate your child about cyber bullying. Let your children know that it’s important to respect others, even online. Make sure your kids understand that cyber bullying can be very hurtful to others. Ensure that your child knows that cyber bullying comes with serious consequences.
- Tip #3 – Stay Involved with Your Child’s Technology Use – Make sure you’re involved with your child’s technology use. Pay attention to the ways your kids use technology. Let them show you how they are using the web or their Smartphone. Avoid letting younger kids online without supervision.
- Tip #4 – Ask Your Child About Bullying – Regularly ask your child if he is dealing with cyber bullying. You want to keep communication open so your child will feel comfortable talking to you if he does deal with cyber bullying in the future.
- Tip #5 – Keep Computers Visible – Make sure that computers are kept in visible areas of the home and avoid allowing teens or children to have a computer in their bedroom.
- Tip #6 – Limit the Use of Technology – Using technology, such as the internet or cellphones, such be a privilege. Make sure that you limit the amount of time your children use technology each day. Be especially diligent about keeping kids and teens off the web and cellphones at night, since most cyber bullying occurs at night.
- Tip #7 – Invest in Quality Filtering and Blocking Software – With quality filtering and blocking software, you can block offensive content, monitor your child’s online behavior, and set internet time limits.
Signs Your Child Could Be a Victim of Cyber Bullying
Many kids never talk to their parents when cyber bullying occurs. In 2011, UK boy Carney Bonner began harming himself after online bullies told him he should kill himself, and his parents had no idea that he was dealing with cyberbullies. Parents must know the signs that children and teens often display when they are victims of cyber bullying. Some of the signs that your child could be a victim of cyber bullying include:
- Displaying Anxious or Disturbed Behavior – If you notice that your child displays anxious or disturbed behavior after using a tablet, laptop or Smartphone, your child could be dealing with bullying online.
- Withdrawal from Family and Favorite Activities – Withdrawal, both from family and favorite activities, could be a sign that your child is a victim of cyber bullying. When kids are regularly bombarded with bullying behavior, they often stop enjoying their favorite activities.
- Change in Cellphone or Computer Use – If your child suddenly doesn’t want to use the computer or a cellphone, this could be a serious sign that cyber bullying is occurring.
- Unwillingness to Talk About Online Activities – Many children who are being cyberbullied stop talking about what they are doing online. If your child no longer answers your questions about his online activity, you need to pay attention.
- Physical Symptoms – Difficulty sleeping, unexplained headaches, or regular stomachaches could be physical symptoms that bullying is taking place online.
- Unexplained Depression or Suicidal Thoughts – If your child begins to display signs of depression or he has suicidal thoughts, cyber bullying could be the underlying problem.
Is Your Child a Cyber Bully?
The BBC.co.uk notes that cyber bullies don’t have to be more aggressive or bigger than the person they’re bullying online, so it can be more difficult to pick out online bullies. In many cases, cyber bullies begin exhibiting changes in behavior. It’s important that parents know the signs that their child could be bullying others online. While no parent wants to think that their child is bullying someone else, recognizing the signs can help parents stop this behavior. In many cases, kids are caught up in cyber bullying without fully realizing how hurtful and dangerous it can be. A few of the signs that your child could be a cyber bully include:
- Sign #1 – Secretive Behavior – Kids who are bullying others online may display secretive behavior, such as hiding the screen on the computer or quickly switching tabs when a parent enters the room.
- Sign #2 – Mobile or Computer Use Late at Night – Your child may begin using mobile devices or computers late at night when he won’t be supervised. Cyber bullying is more likely to take place if a bully does not think that someone is supervising or watching his actions.
- Sign #3 – Unreasonable Anger When Computer Privileges are Revoked – Many kids and teens get upset if they lose their technology privileges. However, a cyber bully may display anger, anxiety, or sulkiness if he is not allowed to use the computer.
- Sign #4 – A Change in Friends – Parents may notice that a child suddenly begins hanging out with new friends, offline or online. A child who is engaging in cyber bullying may no longer publicly interact with long-time friends.
- Sign #5 – Significant Increase in Phone or Computer Use – You may notice that your child or teen suddenly begins spending more time than ever on a Smartphone or computer.
- Sign #6 – Multiple Fake Accounts Online – Many cyberbullies create multiple fake accounts online using public email systems, such as Yahoo, Google, or Hotmail. They do this because it makes them feel like their activity cannot be traced easily.
How to Stop Cyber Bullying
If your child is a victim of cyber bullying, you need to take measures to stop cyber bullying. The following are a few important steps you can take to stop cyber bullying:
- Step #1 – Record Any Instances of Cyber bullying – If you find out your child is being bullied online, make sure you keep a record of all instances of cyber bullying.
- Step #2 – Limit Internet Time – If your child is a victim of cyber bullying, limit your child’s internet time to remove your child from the situation until the problem is dealt with effectively.
- Step #3 – Contact Your Child’s School – If you think that someone from your child’s school is responsible for the cyber bullying, you need to contact your child’s school so they are aware of the situation. All UK schools must have anti-bullying policies, so parents should find out about the school’s policies and ask for help from the school administration.
- Step #4 – Talk to the Police – In some cases, you may need to talk to the UK police about the problem, particularly if you think your child is being harmed by the cyber bullying. Make sure you provide the police with the evidence you have so they can investigate the situation.
- Step #5 – Keep Talking to Your Child – Cyber bullying can be very damaging to your child, so make sure you keep talking to your child about the situation. Let your child know that you support him and that you’re doing everything possible to deal with the situation. If your child is showing signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, take your child to a mental health professional.
Cyber bullying continues to become more prevalent in the UK, but when kids, parents, schools, and the government work together, those combined anti-bullying efforts can make a difference.