In this digital age, images play a more significant role in the lives of young people than in previous generations. In the world of social media selfies, camera phones and the ease of editing photos, it is not surprising that appearances are very important to them.

Cyberbullying on social media

Using technology and social media platforms for evil purposes is what is defined as ‘cyberbullying’. A study by the Anti-Bullying Alliance in the UK shows that almost half (45%) of parents worry that their child will be bullied online.

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And they are right to worry – because research shows more than half of teens experience cyberbullying. Like face-to-face intimidation, this is embarrassing for victims, and most of them don’t tell their parents when it happens.

“Bullying is nothing new,” said Lisa Lister, health educator, creator of the Sassy She website, and member of the Dove Self-Esteem Project Advisory Board. “But young people today have new tools to do it.”

The effects of cyberbullying

One of the main differences between online and offline bullying – and what makes cyber bullies so dangerous – is that victims of cyberbullying have no place to hide.

If you have been bullied, you will know what torture is. As well as the physical or emotional pain of bullying itself, there is a constant fear of subsequent attacks and damage to your confidence and self-esteem.

Houses, and especially young people’s bedrooms, will be a refuge from this type of sacrifice in the past. But now, in the place where he feels safest, your child is still in the reach of cyberbully business – through text messages, email, social media, or embarrassing YouTube videos.

Why cyber bullies bully

The other main difference between the two is that this form of online bullying allows a degree of anonymity for bullies, thanks to the existence of a digital screen between cyberbully perpetrators and their victims. This might mean ridicule and temptation can be more extreme than direct action.

In the online world, cyberbully often operates with under-guarded behavior – a concept known as ‘disinhibition’, where the perpetrator can see the victim’s activities without having to meet in person. Bullies do not have to directly witness the effects of their cruel words and taunts or face real-life confrontations, it makes them even more bullied.

Cyberbully also means open taunts to a much larger and more difficult audience. Unpleasant imagery, which may have been treated, can spread far and wide if posted by bullies to social networks or websites.

Impact on cyberbullying victims

Not surprisingly, cyberbullying violently attacks young people and links it with depression, drug use and some tragic cases, even suicide victims.

As parents, beware of the specific dangers of cyberbullying and the potential risks for your child. Raise your own awareness by reading our checklist below, and help your child be prevented and fight this type of behavior.

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyberbully can use the cloak of internet anonymity to carry out various forms of cruel intimidation, including:

‘Am I pretty?’ Video: Girls in particular who are bullied or feel insecure about their appearance sometimes post pictures “Am I beautiful or ugly?” Or online videos, with very sad messages like: “People keep saying that I’m ugly and I want to know – am I really bad?” Comments that appear on this video are often very painful and can damage the people who post them.

Trolling: A ‘troll’ is someone who interferes with people online, is embarrassing and provocative. Some young people are hunted by trolls – who are almost certainly other young people – who mock them mercilessly about sensitive issues like their appearance, or repeatedly tell them how much they are hated.

Parasitic porn: this occurs when suggestive or sexual images or videos posted by young people on social networking sites, or may be shared in intimate text messages, are uploaded to other, more general websites.

• Start a conversation about cyberbullying

Explain to your child what cyberbullying is and why it is wrong.

Encourage them to talk with you if they feel it has happened to them or someone they know

• Unplug yourself

As with all cyber threats, you can reduce the risk by ensuring your child has an offline and online life. Asking everyone to turn off social media at family time such as mealtimes. This will give your child a break from all the difficulties they face. Be a good example too – don’t rely too much on your own digital device

• Encourage your child to invite friends to the house

Positive real-time social experience helps put negative virtual communication into another perspective

• Teach the importance of trusting feelings and instincts

If there is something on the online media that makes your child feel uncomfortable, help them understand that the feeling may be a warning sign and they should talk to you about it so you can discuss whether it is appropriate or inappropriate.

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