The Evolution of Cyberbullying: Strategies for Parents and Educators

By | Published On: 1 February 2024 | 5.9 min read |

Most of us grew up knowing who the school playground or neighbourhood bully was; we could see that child from a mile away and would avoid at all costs any interaction with them. However, sometimes, due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you might have been the victim of some snide remark or had your lunch money stolen. What a horrible feeling that was, that dread. 

Now, these ghastly children still walk among us, but imagine we had to deal with another bully too. Because the old-school kind still exists, but now we have one lurking in our pocket, ready to interrupt our scrolling and could pop up any time, making our life a living hell. We can’t really avoid this persistent horror because they live on our phone. Children these days face a whole other reality.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital interaction, cyberbullying has emerged as a pervasive threat, extending the reach of traditional bullying into the virtual spaces where today’s children and teenagers spend a significant portion of their lives. 

Cyberbullying, defined as the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature, represents a complex challenge for parents, educators, and society at large. “Children may be reluctant to admit to being the victims of cyberbullying,” not only due to the stigma associated with being bullied but also because the digital nature of the interaction can make it feel inescapable.

Understanding the New Face of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying today goes beyond simple text messages or social media comments. It can involve complex schemes like catfishing, cyberstalking, and the spreading of personal information or images without consent. 

In our recent LinkedIn Live session “Learn Practical Ways to protect your children online”  with Security Everywhere, we spotlighted an invaluable resource for parents: https://www.internetmatters.org/ This website is essential for those looking to effectively manage and secure their children’s online activities. It provides detailed guides for implementing parental controls across various devices and platforms, a crucial step in combating cyberbullying. By offering instructions on setting up protective measures on widely used platforms such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and TikTok, internetmasters.org empowers parents to prevent unwanted exposure and ensure a safe, age-appropriate online environment for their children, as highlighted in our discussion.

Empowering Parents and Educators

Empowerment through knowledge and tools is fundamental in the fight against cyberbullying. A proactive approach towards understanding the digital realms that children frequent is essential. For example, the “See Up Safe Checklist” available on internetmasters.org provides parents with the ability to audit their children’s devices for safety features, ensuring a secure online environment.

Additionally, the challenge of indecent image sharing is addressed by resources such as the NSPCC’s “Report Remove” service. . This invaluable service, accessible via the NSPCC website, offers a vital lifeline for young people under the age of 18 to report and seek the removal of sexual images of themselves from the internet. Operating in partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation, “Report Remove” provides a confidential and secure means to help regain control over their images and potentially stop their spread. 

This initiative not only highlights the varied aspects of cyberbullying but also emphasizes the necessity for a comprehensive strategy towards online safety, ensuring that victims have a clear path to support and resolution.

Real-Life Stories: The Impact of Cyberbullying

It’s easy to think that cyberbullying is something that happens to other people’s children, until the day it impacts your own. The reality of what can happen online becomes all too clear with real-life stories, reminding us of the urgent need for vigilance and preparedness in the digital age.

Jacqueline’s Story

Jacqueline was an enthusiastic participant in online gaming communities, where she enjoyed the camaraderie and challenge. However, what began as friendly competition soon turned sour when a fellow gamer started harassing her, both in the game and through social media. The harassment escalated to the point where Jacqueline felt unsafe and isolated, affecting her both online and offline. It was a stark reminder of how quickly online interactions can turn harmful, and the importance of having strategies in place to deal with cyberbullying. Her story, shared on the eSafety Commissioner’s website, underscores the need for awareness and action in protecting our children in digital spaces.

Ryan’s Story

Ryan’s experience with cyberbullying began with a misunderstanding among friends that quickly spiraled out of control. What started as a joke was taken out of context and led to a campaign of cyberbullying against him. Messages, both public and private, attacked his character and spread lies about him. Ryan felt overwhelmed and helpless, a sentiment that many victims of cyberbullying share. His journey to overcoming this experience involved reaching out for help, learning to document the abuse, and using available reporting mechanisms to address the bullying. Ryan’s story is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of supportive networks in overcoming the challenges posed by cyberbullying.

These stories courtesy of esafety highlight the very real consequences of cyberbullying and the importance of being prepared to support and protect our children. They serve as a call to action for parents, educators, and the community to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools necessary to combat cyberbullying effectively.

Strategies for a Safer Digital World

  • Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where children feel comfortable sharing their online experiences. Regular conversations can help identify and address cyberbullying early.
  • Educational Resources: Utilise websites like https://www.internetmatters.org/to understand and implement effective parental controls across various digital platforms and devices.
  • Awareness and Reporting: Teach children about resources like the NSPCC’s “Report Remove” service, empowering them to take action against the spread of harmful content.
  • Community Engagement: Parents and educators should collaborate, sharing knowledge and strategies to create a unified front against cyberbullying.
  • Policy Advocacy: Schools and educational institutions must develop clear policies on cyberbullying, incorporating the latest resources and tools available for prevention and response.

Conclusion

The digital age has transformed bullying from playground taunts to cyber threats, making it a pervasive issue that extends into the pockets and screens of our children. The real-life stories of Jacqueline and Ryan, as highlighted by the eSafety Commissioner, underscore the urgent need for action against cyberbullying. These narratives reveal the deep impact of online harassment and the importance of a supportive response framework.

Empowerment through resources like internetmatters.org and the NSPCC’s “Report Remove” service is key to combating this issue. These tools not only provide practical guidance for parents but also offer a means for young people to regain control over their digital lives. The collaborative effort between parents, educators, and children is crucial in creating a safer online environment.

In summary, addressing cyberbullying requires a dynamic and informed approach. By leveraging available resources, fostering open communication, and advocating for supportive policies, we can protect our children in the digital world. The insights from our discussions highlight the complexity of cyberbullying and the collective effort needed to ensure a safer digital future for the next generation.

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