Cyberbullying is a problem for children and adolescents from every demographic, but the risks for girls and young women is growing rapidly. Cyberbullying differs from face-to-face bullying in that the harassment is perpetuated using electronic technology. Unfortunately, many adults discount this threat because the potential for physical harm is largely mitigated. Statistics show that 1 in 4 kids has been the victim of online harassment. Perhaps even more disturbing, one in six admits to have perpetuated cyberbullying.
The Unique Character of Cyberbullying
Online harassment can occur across many electronic platforms, including instant messaging, text, chat rooms and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It can also occur within online gaming platforms and in discussion forums for fans of musical genres or performing artists. It differs from the traditional form of attack in that a cyberbully can reach your daughter 24 hours a day, even within the safety of your home. It can be perpetrated anonymously and can spread quickly across the world via social media. Once harassing photos, videos and posts go live, it can be virtually impossible to make them go away. An important characteristic of online harassment is that it is continuous and systematic, rather than a one-time occurrence.
The More Familiar Nature of Bullying’s Outcomes
Children respond to cyberbullying in much the way as in-person harassment, with unusual changes in mood or behavior, the development of negative physical or emotional symptoms and slipping grades. In addition, they may become secretive or defensive about online activity. Adolescents or teenagers may withdraw from friends and social activities or suddenly stop using electronic devices. The Cyberbullying Research Center recommends that if your child displays any behavior that is inconsistent with normal activities when using electronic devices, parents and caregivers must try to determine the reason. In some cases, the child may be bullying others, rather than being the victim of someone else.
The Increased Risk for Adolescent and Teenage Girls
The Cyberbullying Research Center reports that more than 38 percent of teenage girls have been harassed online. The stereotypical “mean girl” phenomenon has moved into the cyberworld with a vengeance, but the problem extends far beyond girls harassing other girls. Boys are also bullying girls in a phenomenon known as online shaming (also called cybershaming or “slut shaming”). Teen boys obtain compromising photos of young women, then post them in ways that provide the girl’s friends as well as total strangers access to the images. In some cases, young women voluntarily share their photos, however, it is also common for teenage girls to be surreptitiously photographed or recorded in the school locker room or restroom. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand that this behavior is often a violation of the law and should be reported to the proper authorities.
In many cases of traditional as well as online bullying, adolescent and teen girls can experience long-lasting emotional damage. It is recommended that parents obtain professional counseling or treatment programs for young women who have been victimized. Havenwood Academy offers in-depth residential treatment programs for adolescent and teenage girls who have suffered bullying and other types of abuse, designed to assist young women in the development of appropriate coping strategies. Contact Havenwood Academy today to learn how to help your daughter if she has been the target of cyberbullying.