What is Social Media or Cyber Bullying?

Despite numerous campaigns throughout the country to end bullying, the numbers related to bullying are quite staggering. According to the Megan Meier Foundation, nearly one of every three students has been bullied during the school year and TeenSafe reports that 87 percent of students have witnessed cyberbullying.

The problem with cyber bullying that sets it apart from traditional bullying is that students no longer have a safe haven or refuge to escape the torment. For those who believe that bullying is a victimless crime or that students simply need to toughen up after being victims, perhaps these statistics will shed a little light on just how serious the problem is.

  • 83 percent of victims suffered from reduced self-esteem because of being bullied.
  • 30 percent of bullying victims engage in self-harming behaviors.
  • 10 percent of bullying victims have attempted suicide as a result of being bullied.

Enough is Enough also posted some rather sobering facts about cyberbullying. While more than 30 percent of students (ages 12 through 17) have been victims of cyberbullying, only 11.5 percent of students of these same ages admitted to engaging in cyberbullying behavior.

What Does Cyberbullying Involve?

Part of the problem with stopping this behavior is bringing it to light. Most people aren’t exactly sure where the line is crossed and what constitutes cyberbullying, to begin with. It can be any one, a combination of several, or all of the following things:

  • Harassment Online
  • Spreading Rumors Online (via text messages, social media, email, etc.)
  • Making Negative Comments on Photos
  • Posting Abusive Comments on Walls
  • Using Videos and Images to Make Fun of Others
  • Stalking People Via Social Media
  • Making Fraudulent Posts as Another Person
  • Mocking the Race, Ethnicity, Religion, or Physical Features of a Person

In essence, cyber bullying happens when someone uses electronic devices, whether that’s a cell phone, computer, or tablet to intimidate, harass, or threaten someone in a harmful and willful harming way.

The real problem that makes cyberbullying far more insidious is that students can’t outrun the speed of the World Wide Web for sharing this information and, far too often, the social aspect of social media has more students piling on – adding insult to injury and doing far more damage.

Where are Children and Teens Bullying Others Online?

According to Huffington Post, Twitter is a major portal for cyberbullying with more than 15,000 bullying-related tweets posted daily. Unfortunately, cyberbullying doesn’t exist solely within a Twitter vacuum. Teens are using a wide range of social media outlets to bully others, including:

  • Facebook
  • FM
  • SnapChat
  • Instagram
  • music.ly

With so many teens attached to the Internet via portable devices, mobile phones, laptops, and gaming consoles, the bullying becomes constant both on school grounds and well after hours.

How Can Parents Recognize the Signs?

As parents, you only want what is best for your child. You want to give them access to the tools and technologies that will help them succeed in life, but not at the high cost of becoming victims of cyberbullying. Learn to recognize the signs of symptoms that all may not be well with your child, including the following indicators:

  • Loss of Interest in Favorite Activities
  • Sudden Withdrawal from Friends and Family
  • Dramatic Changes in Sleeping Patterns and/or Appetite
  • Self-Harm

Once you recognize these signs, it’s important to quickly get to the bottom of things and resolve the issues. Monitor your child’s social media activities, ask your child questions and engage him or her in conversation, discuss cyberbullying and actions your child can take to defend or protect him or herself, and report all harassment and bullying to social media sites where it is happening.

Cyberbullying may not offer the same scars and physical signs traditional bullying has wrought over the decades, but for many teens, these scars run deeper and have much more devastating consequences to the overall health and happiness of your teen.

The one thing that is important to remember is that cyberbullying doesn’t happen accidentally. It is an intentional and deliberate act designed to cause maximum harm to the person being bullied. Until parents stand up and call these bullies to task by reporting the behavior to schools, social media sites, parents of the perpetrators, and local law enforcement, little is going to happen to change the harmful behavior.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself

Social media and cyber bullying can be a costly and detrimental risk to a family’s well-being and finances. There are many civil suits filed against the parents of cyberbullies. Therefore, it’s prudent to talk to your independent insurance agent about whether your homeowners and/or personal umbrella policy covers you in the event that a social media or cyber bullying lawsuit is brought against you.

Contact us here at The Insurance Center of New Jersey to discuss your social media and cyber bullying coverage options.