68% of Americans own smartphones as of 2015, with 45% owning tablets, according to the PEW Research Center. This number has no doubt grown. 85% of mothers say that they use technology in order to keep their children busy. 83% of American households have tablets while 77% have smartphones. 86% of those aged 18-29 have smartphones. Many children and teenagers will have a smartphone and a tablet, while simultaneously having access to a computer either at home, at school or in internet cafes. Technological devices are here to stay, and they can have either positive or negative effects depending on how they are used.

Unfortunately, continual access to digital information comes with a series of disadvantages. And one of these is the rise of cyberbullying. 24/7 access to digital technology is not an advantage when the technology is being used to harass or discriminate against an individual. It can be a terrible situation where children are bullied around the clock, afraid to turn on their device for what they might find on it. The role of parents is to stay alert to the dangers of over exposure to these types of technology.

What is Cyberbullying?

It can be difficult to supply a technical definition of what constitutes cyberbullying. This is due to the fact that cyberbullying is often a subjective phenomenon. The bully may not be aware that what he or she is doing is actually cyberbullying, and may even think that it is a joke. And the child could simply be more sensitive than others. Cyberbullying, like bullying in person, can be very difficult to understand and troubleshoot.

Tulane University has provided a simple definition, saying that cyberbullying is simply a form of bullying that takes place over digital mediums. These digital mediums primarily include social media forums and chat services. Cyber bullies are often anonymous and can be performed in groups as well as individually.

Standard bullying has now gone online, and it is easier for bullies to carry out their operations. What is especially worrying is that the child will often have no refuge at home or anywhere else. If he or she is carrying a device, there may be no escape. What was once a playground phenomenon can now take place anywhere, anytime, thanks to technology.

Currently, there is no law that prevents cyberbullying. There is no remedy at the Federal level, however most US states have added wording to existing bullying laws to include digital bullying. The nature of cyberbullying can be difficult to resolve. It involves two people who are both very young and do not know the consequences of their actions, and thus legal remedies are usually very inappropriate even if there is a case. It is the responsibility of the school to do as best as they can to spread cyberbullying awareness and to prevent it where possible. Social media and other sites should certainly be restricted at schools. Where cyberbullying is reported, all schools are expected to perform a thorough investigation and follow through. Support is to be provided to parents and guardians throughout the process.

Cyberbullying can be especially prevalent for kids aged between 9-14 and according to Cyber Bully 411, 40% of cyberbullying takes place on instant messaging services, 29% takes place on online games and 30% takes place on social networking sites. With video games, cyberbullying is usually not personal. Older users often engage in abusive language if they get “killed” by somebody in shooter games or if another player does not act in accordance with generally accepted principles as perceived by that particular gamer. These video games often have an adverse effect on an individual’s personality which turns them more aggressive, particularly shooter games. Because this abuse is usually verbal through a head piece, there is no real record of its occurrence, and the child or adolescent may not even know the person. The bully could be located anywhere in the world.

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There are a number of cyberbullying statistics to take note of, and they are a strong indicate that it is becoming something of an epidemic. It is a very serious concern and not something to be taken lightly, or that the child will “grow out of”.

  • 34% of academic students will experience cyberbullying during their lifetime
  • Girls are twice as likely to be the victims of cyberbullying.
  • Victims of cyberbullying have a higher risk of depression, even compared to victims of traditional bullying face to face.
  • Children are 7 times more likely to be cyber bullied by friends than by strangers.
  • Children who are bullied are 9 times more likely to be the victim of identity fraud as well.
  • 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online

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