Cyberbullying during the pandemic

Article written by Sergiu Bumbacea and Filip Popescu M.Sc.

 

Cyberbullying has become a significantly sensitive subject with the evolution of digital environments and media. This type of bullying has numerous means of expressivity due to an unending source of online entertainment: videos, text posts, memes, gifs, and even platforms such as SnapchatInstagramTikTok. From mean comments to disgraceful photo and video edits, cyberbullying has virtually no limits, a wide outreach, and powerful consequences.

What exactly is cyberbullying? 

This is a harassment method taking place over digital environments. Social media, forums, texting, emails, and even online gaming platforms and communities are environments where this can take place.

Cyberbullying is generally based on posting or sending threatening messages, spreading false rumours, trolling (making fun at their expense), stalking people online, abusing fake social media accounts (which use real photos and sometimes contact details which can be very unkind or unpleasant), harassing other people in virtual environments, and more. For a more detailed list, please consult the following article from stopbullying.gov.

Why do people cyberbully?

We strongly believe that it is a consequence of digitization. With increasing access to internet and online communication platforms, people have become progressively connected over time. The key element in cyberbullying, however, is the comfort of anonymity.

A more recent report from [the Ditch the Label organisation] found that cyberbullying was far and away the most common type of bullying, reported by 74% of victims.” Read more about this report here.

Numerous online platforms provide the ease of creating anonymous accounts. This can also be used for impersonating others, even your close friends, family, and relationship partners. Such behaviour can be extremely damaging to kids uneducated about the perils of the online world.

Moreover, with such wide access to large audiences, it is even easier to cause harm by spreading false rumours online

Photo credit: Freepik.com

Consequences of cyberbullying

 If your children are the targets of cyberbullying, they may experience a wide range of emotions, potentially spanning short and/or long amounts of time. Do not hesitate to talk with them if you believe that their behaviours have changed either suddenly or over time. 

It is highly recommended to reach out to therapists if your attempts to communicate haven’t had any significant impact on their emotional well-being.

UNICEF published earlier this year a report on the pandemic’s implications on protecting children online. These consequences are directly affecting numerous countries’ implementation and development of Sustainable Development Goal #4: Education.

Now let’s talk about some examples of feelings that victims of cyberbullying can experience.

Your children may feel overwhelmed. It is stressful to process the large amount of input they receive from strangers and friends. Going through their own personal emotions towards those people and the hurtful things they heard or read can be an extremely challenging situation.

When cyberbullying occurs, the posts, messages, and embarrassing texts can be shared with multitudes of people. “The sheer volume of people that know about the bullying can lead to intense feelings of humiliation.”

Cyberbullies often attack victims where they are emotionally vulnerable; children may feel an intense sense of dissatisfaction with who they are. “As a result, targets of cyberbullying often begin to doubt their worth and value.”

Also, if your child is a victim of cyberbullying, he could become more isolated, physically sick, disinterested. All of these consequences will make your kid depressed, this harassment erodes their self-confidence and self-esteem.

The most undesired consequence of cyberbullying leads to suicidal ideation. It may happen when the victims are dealing with the numerous emotions described above, and they want to find the quickest way out of such an extremely difficult emotional situation. Read more here.

Noticing these signs is important, and we urge you to talk with your children about bullying in all its forms, more importantly the one taking place online.


Statistics

PandaSecurity.com offers us some actual statistics that were made on different topics about Cyberbullying.


Social Media

We can see that:

• 31% of young adults report that their peers misunderstand their texts or social media posts.

• Children ages 9 to 10 are more likely to be bullied on gaming websites, while teens ages 13 to 16 are more likely to be affected by cyberbullying on social media.

• 42% of adolescents have experienced cyberbullying on Instagram, and 37% of them have experienced bullying on Facebook.

 
Larger effects

• Only 46% of students report bullying incidents to an adult.

• Non-heterosexual victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying exhibit more depression, social anxiety, and psychopathological symptoms than heterosexual victims and perpetrators.

• Only 8% of public schools report that staff resources are used to handle cyberbullying incidents.

These are just some examples. If you want more information about those statistics and many more topics here .

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics has released some “data showing that almost one-third of young teens worldwide have recently experienced bullying.”

The new statistics show for example that 44% of adolescents in Afghanistan experience bullying, as do 35% of adolescents in Canada, 26% in Tanzania and 24% in Argentina. Boys experience slightly higher rates of bullying in school than girls overall, but in countries where bullying is most pervasive as Afghanistan, girls are more vulnerable. 

Photo credit: Freepik.com

How cyberbullying grew during COVID

Since the global pandemic started, many children and teens have been spending more time in online environments. As a result, they are using social media and apps like Instagram, TikTok, Zoom, Skype a lot more frequently than in the past.


Why is this happening?

Due to the current situation, the majority of schools started teaching remotely, the kids are online more than ever now. Teachers are using applications like Moodle, Zoom, Google Classroom.

In fact, some of the greatest online risks to kids are cyberbullyingshaming, and exploitation. […] initial research indicates that cyberbullying is on the rise during the stay-at-home orders.

Light, an organization that monitors cyberbullying, shows online harassment has been increased 70% during the last months. “They also found a 40% increase in toxicity on online gaming platforms, a 900% increase in hate speech on Twitter directed toward China and the Chinese, and a 200% increase in traffic to hate sites.”
Pandemic stressors can cause kids to lash out or potentially create conflict with others.

In this time, the stress started to increase, everything became confusing. “When kids are feeling this way, it can lead to acting out or lashing out at others, misunderstandings among friends, and risk-taking behaviors in response.”

 

Causes of increased cyberbullying:

Isolation and potentially fragmented friendships. Kids are feeling more isolated and when they get connected with other people, mean or cruel comments toward their peers may be made in frustration.

Decreased digital supervision. Parents now must work from home, help kids with their homework, and also do housework. Kids remain less supervised while online. More freedom when it comes to social media and online games may allow more cyberbullying events.

Boredom. As found in the research, “kids sometimes engage in cyberbullying because they are bored, lonely, or want attention”. This kind of harassment feeds their need for attention, even if it is a negative one.

 

You can find these much more detailed at VeryWellFamily.com.

 

Conclusion

Parents must pay attention to their children’s digital activities. Smartphones, computers, and on other digital devices. If you notice any changes in the amount of time your children spend on these devices, as well as any mood switches, it may be a good indicator to take action. Talk to them about how they feel. Introduce them to digital discipline.

If stronger actions are required, look into their browsing history, maybe even install tracking apps and parental control solutions. Moreover, in case you feel overwhelmed by the situation, there are professionals experienced in children’s emotional troubles who you can contact.

KidsTechWorld considers cyberbullying to be a modern sensitive topic, enhanced due to the current pandemic. In our next blog post, we are sharing with you our guidance on how parents and teachers can navigate this perilous phenomenon.

 

Do you have any cyberbullying prevention advice that you want to share with us?

 Feel free to answer in the comment section below.

__________

 

Resources:

https://www.theatlantic.com//technology/archive/2018/10/teens-face-relentless-bullying-instagram/572164/

https://medium.com//@zoe.mathioudakis23/tiktok-and-cyberbullying-32eb02adb20f

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-47118629

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it

https://www.comparitech.com/internet-providers/cyberbullying-statistics/#Cyberbullying_facts_and_statistics_for_2018-2020

https://www.unicef.org/media/67396/file/COVID-19%20and%20Its%20Implications%20for%20Protecting%20Children%20Online.pdf

http://uis.unesco.org/en/news/new-sdg-4-data-bullying

https://www.pandasecurity.com/en/mediacenter/family-safety/cyberbullying-statistics/#social

https://l1ght.com/Toxicity_during_coronavirus_Report-L1ght.pdf

https://www.cerebralpalsyguide.com/cerebral-palsy/birth-injury/erbs-palsy/

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