By Haley Zapal, Bark
At Bark, we’ve witnessed firsthand just how prevalent cyberbullying is among today’s kids. More than 60% of tweens and 70% of teens have experienced it, either as a victim, bully, or witness. Unfortunately, many parents may not realize just how different it is from the schoolyard bullying they remember from growing up, and they may not know how to stop cyberbullying today. With 24/7 access to their phones, kids today can tease, harass, and threaten their peers around the clock and from any location — being at home doesn’t mean you’re safe from bullies anymore.
Because of this, it’s important for parents and kids to talk openly and honestly about cyberbullying. There’s a lot to learn, and knowing how to identify all of the different ways it can happen will keep your family prepared. We’ve assembled some of the most relevant statistics about cyberbullying to use as conversation starters for you and your kids.
The more you’re prepared, the better you’ll be able to stop it if it happens.
1. Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Common types of cyberbullying include harassment, cyberstalking, catfishing, and trolling.
Discussing exactly what cyberbullying is with your child is a good way to help them understand all of the different ways it can happen. Review the types of cyberbullying together and then take time to come up with your own examples of what each looks like. You and your child will be better able to combat cyberbullying when you’re both able to easily recognize the signs.
2. While there is no federal law against cyberbullying, every state except Alaska and Wisconsin have specific references to cyberbullying in their anti-bullying laws.
Getting familiar with the cyberbullying laws in your state is an important activity to do with your child. Not only will it help you gain a greater understanding of what is and isn’t punishable by law, but it will also help your child grasp the severity of cyberbullying and the kinds of consequences bullies can expect to face.
3. Cyberbullying victims are more likely to consider suicide.
Victims of cyberbullying often experience low self-esteem, loneliness, and feelings of worthlessness, and these feelings can lead to more serious issues like depression and suicidal ideation. For LGBTQ+ kids, rates of cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, and suicide are even higher. Talking with your child about suicide can be difficult, but we’ve put together a guide that can help.
4. More kids have experienced cyberbullying on Instagram than on any other platform at 42%, with Facebook following close behind at 37%. Snapchat ranked third at 31%.
Discovering where cyberbullying most often takes place online will help you and your child take the necessary actions to prevent it from happening. Each week, we send tens of thousands of alerts about severe cyberbullying to parents just like you. Allowing apps like Bark to monitor for signs of cyberbullying will give you more peace of mind, knowing that you’ll be alerted if it becomes an issue.
5. Victims suffer in silence for fear that adults will restrict digital access if they speak up.
Knowing this, the most important thing to do is remind your child that they will not be punished if they tell you they’re being cyberbullied. Parents who decide to take their child’s phone away after they’ve been cyberbullied send the message that the victim is the one to blame. Consider blocking or reporting the bully instead.
6. Adolescents who engaged in cyberbullying were more likely to be perceived as “popular” by their peers.
This shocking and unfortunate statistic means that your child may be tempted to cyberbully to gain favor with their peers. In addition to letting your child know that being a bully is never OK, we encourage you to reference this guide on what to do when your child bullies.
7. Victims of cyberbullying may exhibit warning signs.
Although many tweens and teens are afraid to report cyberbullying, they may exhibit behavior that indicates that they’re struggling. This is especially true of kids who are marginalized in one way or another. Kids with autism or food allergies — and kids who are racial/ethnic minorities or members of the LGBT community — are all more likely to be bullied than their peers. Some common signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying include:
- Discontinued use of their smartphones
- Getting emotional while using their smartphone, or afterward
- Being secretive or avoiding discussions about their online lives
- Avoiding school or social activities
- Changes in grades, mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
If you notice these behaviors, it’s best to sit down with your child and calmly ask if they’ve experienced problems with cyberbullying. Remind them of how important they are and reassure them that you will not intervene without their consent. One Bark parent reached out to tell us that an alert she received helped to spark a difficult but necessary discussion: “I love that I am alerted to suspected cyberbullying, even if my son and his friends are just ‘messing around’ with each other. Knowing that it’s happening has opened up the opportunity for good conversations about friendship.”
8. More than half of teens have witnessed cyberbullying on social media.
Talking with your child about what it means to be an “upstander” (as opposed to a bystander) is a great way to help stop cyberbullying. Some kids assume that if they report bullying they will be seen as a tattletale, while others are afraid to stand up to a bully for fear they may become the next victim. Talking through the following tactics will help your child approach the situation with confidence:
- Question the bully’s behavior or redirect the conversation by changing the subject.
- Ask other friends to help stop the bully’s behavior.
- Reach out to the victim personally to let them know you don’t agree with the bully’s behavior and ask how you can support them.
Learn More About How to Stop Cyberbullying
At Bark, we know cyberbullying can be a frightening — and complicated — issue for children and parents alike. We’ve also seen firsthand how devastating the effects of cyberbullying can be. Fortunately, our award-winning monitoring service can help take some of the guesswork out of wondering how to stop cyberbullying if your kid is struggling with it. With text and email alerts from Bark, you find out what’s going on and help your kid figure out what to do next.
Bark monitors texts, email, chat, YouTube, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of not only cyberbullying, but also threats like suicidal ideation, sexual predators, depression, and more. Sign up today.