The days of worrying about the school bully messing with kids on the playground are long gone. Nowadays it is much worse. Unfortunately, with the creation of social media, bullying doesn’t just stop at school, it follows children to the one place they’re supposed to feel safe… their home.
“Social media has its highs and lows,” says Thomas Bumgardner, an attorney with the Law Office of Thomas D. Bumgardner, PLLC. “On one hand social media allows us to connect with new and old friends. It also gives us a voice to share our thoughts and opinions. But sometimes those voices can be mean, threatening and harmful to people, and it feels like you can’t escape.”
Heartbreaking numbers from the Center for Disease Control show that 15.5% of high school students have been cyberbullied and 24% of middle school students have experienced cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets, according to StopBullying.gov. The organization goes on to say that cyberbullying includes sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else.
Teenagers are constantly online or on their smartphones, so cyberbullying can happen in a variety of ways. It can be done through various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Cyberbullying can also happen through text messaging and email.
But what makes cyberbullying difficult to control and monitor is emerging social media trends that seem to come out every single day. Students in Charlotte and all over the country constantly have new ways of interacting with each other, and their parents may not even know about the new app or social media platform.
StopBullying.gov has a list of popular social media sites that can help parents keep track of their child’s online activity. There are actually several sites that we didn’t even know about!
The Signs of Cyberbullying
Teenagers will more than likely hide the fact that they’re being cyberbullied from their parents. This is when parents need to pay attention to certain warning signs and notice any changes in their child’s behavior.
Warning signs of cyberbullying, according to StopBullying.gov, include:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, crying) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn, depressed or loses interest in people and activities.
What to do I do if my child is being cyberbullied?
The first step you should take is to talk to your child and figure out what is happening. We know it could be hard to get them to open up. Let them know that you’re there to help them and can only figure out a solution to the problem if you know all the details.
The next thing you should do with your child is to document the cyberbullying. Save emails and screenshot harmful social media posts and text messages that your child receives.
Make sure you are reporting the cyberbullying. Many social media platforms have ways that you can report the bad behavior. If a classmate is cyberbullying your child then you need to report it to the school district.
If the cyberbullying has reached a point where your child has been threatened with physical harm, then it’s time to go to the police.
What is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ policy on cyberbullying?
Back in 2008, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was one of the first school districts in North Carolina to create a bullying prevention policy called Safety and Respect for All.
According to the district’s website, area superintendents, executive directors, principals and representatives from each school attended training sessions on bullying awareness, intervention strategies and reporting procedures, cyberbullying, legal implications of failing to address bullying and parent-information resources.
Cyberbullying can be frustrating because of the constantly evolving digital world. If you feel like you need to monitor your child’s smartphone or computer in order to get answers about any possible cyberbullying, then there are several software options such as Bark, WebWatcher and TeenSafe that you can download.
The Law Office of Thomas D. Bumgardner, PLLC is always looking out for you and the safety of your loved ones. Families and individuals come to our law office for personal injury protection, separation and divorce, child custody and support, wrongful death, car and truck accidents, nursing home abuse and traffic-related offenses. You can contact us online or call us at 704-887-4981 to book a consultation.