This month, Pennsylvania passed Act 26, a new law that aims to stop cyberbullying of children by making it a punishable offense. The law makes cyber harassment of a child a 3rd degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $2,500 fine or even up to 1 year in prison. I wrote a blog in 2013 about bullying in general, and at the time briefly referenced cyber bullying. Since then, its prevalence has unfortunately grown by leaps and bounds.
In researching cyber bullying and online abuse, I learned that there are actually several types of cyber bullying. They include online harassment, “outing,” (when a victim’s personal information is shared online without their consent), victim blaming, and “trolling,” (faking a social media profile to send hateful messages). I was shocked to read that this is occurring with such regularity.
Even more shocking were some of the statistics. In a 2014 survey of 10,000 young people in England:
- 7 in 10 young people are victims of cyber bullying
- 37% experience cyber bullying on a “highly frequent” basis
- 20% experience “extreme” cyber bullying on a daily basis
- Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are the top 3 platforms for cyber bullying
It’s important to be aware of some of the signs of cyber bullying. Warning signs may be emotional, social/behavioral, academic, or any combination of these. In particular, the biggest red flag is a withdrawal from technology. If you notice a sudden change in computer or phone usage, talk to your child. They may be being cyber bullied. For more information on signs of cyber bullying, visit the National Crime Prevention Council.
Technology has opened many doors for our society, but also brings with it great responsibility. It’s up to us to teach our children how to use technology appropriately.
US Dept. of Health & Human Services anti-bullying site: www.stopbullying.gov
Center for Safe Schools: www.safeschools.info
Bullying Prevention Institute: www.bullyingpreventioninstitute.org