The same technology that gives us instant access to unlimited information, our favorite and TV shows and connects us to friends worldwide can also deliver a dose of pain every time someone looks at their phone. Nearly 50 percent of young people have seen or experienced cyberbullying, and about 28 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school.
Even though we hear about this problem all of the time, it can be hard for people to feel empowered to stand up to bullying. The effects of cyberbullying can be long-lasting, and there are things each of us can do to help fight cyberbullying and make the internet a safe, happy place.
Bullying in the Digital World
The internet is a huge part of our lives, so kids who are cyberbullied have a hard time getting away from the behavior. Social media makes us more connected than ever before, for better or worse. Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, often reaching people when they are alone.
Because messages can be posted anonymously, cyberbullying often allows bullies to avoid the consequences of their words. Whether it’s a mean text message, rumors posted on social media sites or embarrassing photos, cyberbullying can reach a large audience fast. It’s difficult to delete the messages after they have been posted or sent. If it’s online, it lives forever.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Bullying is an attack on a person’s sense of belonging and identity, which often leads to low self-esteem. For many, bullying can result in a reluctance to go to school, increased anxiety, the onset of depression and more.
Your Digital Reputation Matters
Online searches influence and drive many of our decisions. When was the last time you didn’t turn to Google when picking a restaurant for dinner, or which new product to purchase? But we don’t just look up places and objects. We look up people, too. We Google potential employers, and employers use it to vet potential employees. If you’ve been on a first date recently, you probably Googled them first to get a better idea who you were going out with.
We use the internet to learn about people and businesses before we give them our time. When we go through search results, we quickly decide whether we like what we see. If we don’t like a search result right away, we move on to the next one. It’s critical that what is found online about a person makes others want to learn more. If your digital presence gives off a negative opinion, it could end any chance for a connection.
This is just one way cyberbullying can do long-term damage. As kids go through high school, they’ll start searching for jobs, applying to colleges and trying to get scholarships. There’s no doubt others will turn to the internet to discover information about them as well. Employers and college admissions coordinators don’t have the time to sit down with each and every candidate. A simple search online is the fastest and easiest way to get information on a person and make a decision.
Unfortunately, you don’t have total control over your digital reputation. The way you are presented by others online plays a part, which is why cyberbullying can be incredibly damaging. Cyberbullying steals a good online reputation from people and can hurt them for years to come.
How to Prevent or Stop Cyberbullying
Taking some smart precautions can help parents and kids prevent cyberbullying and stop the hurtful behavior before it starts.
- Know the sites and social media platforms your kids visit.
- Ask for your child’s passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in an emergency.
- Encourage your kids to tell someone if they see someone being .
- Teach your child about what’s safe to post online.
- Tell them not to share information that could hurt or embarrass another person.
It can be hard to know how to react to cyberbullying. By responding to cyberbullying in the right way, you can help end the cycle.
- Don't respond or retaliate
- Save the evidence
- Reach out for help
Even if you’re not part of the problem, there are things you can do to fight cyberbullying. During the month of March, anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution is partnering with Tarte Cosmetics to launch the #kissandmakeup campaign to end cyberbullying. They asked everyday internet users to stand up against hateful comments and focus on positive change. They encourage internet users to stop being bystanders to cyberbullying and negativity.
We joined the #kissandmakeup campaign and their effort to share positive vibes and fill the internet with kind words. Empathy and compassion can help build community and reduce bullying. When people feel included and accepted, there will likely be less bullying and less judgment. Kindness online can cause a chain reaction and make a difference.
Be Part of the Solution to Cyberbullying
When it comes to cyberbullying, young people can also be part of the solution. Trisha Prabhu is the 15-year-old inventor of ReThink, a software program that alerts users when they are about to post common phrases associated with cyberbullying. A popup asks the writer, “Are you sure you want to do that?” This appears to cause enough self-reflection that the writer decides not to post the message 93 percent of the time.
But you don’t have to be a developer to make a difference. At Blue Compass, we believe the internet is an amazing thing, and we want it to be a safe place for everyone. As you’re online today, think about how you can spread some love. Don’t just be a bystander to negativity. If you see someone getting put down, build them up.
This month, we encourage everyone to join the #kissandmakeup campaign and spend a little extra time spreading positivity online. Share your favorite inspiring quote or send a compliment to a friend, and you can help make the internet a loving place for everyone.