What’s the Deal with Cyberbullying?

I want to start with a disclaimer: I don’t have as much time to devote to digging up as much research as I’d like to, but I feel so strongly about this I want to put this information in front of you.

The Cyberbullying Research Center (which has a GREAT website, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes and browse through all their studies and graphs and otherdata).  Check out their site here:

Here are a few statistics from the CRC that I found especially interesting:

  • 20% of all teens report both being victims of cyberbullying as well as being guilty of cyberbullying others!
  • Girls are 10% more likely to be victims of cyberbullying
  • Girls are 3% more likely to cyberbully others
  • The most common form of cyberbullying is posting mean or hurtful comments online.

If you haven’t read my post on Formspring.me, I strongly encourage you to read it and have a conversation with your teenager about the site.  Even if he or she doesn’t have a Formspring page, I’d be shocked if he/she doesn’t have friends with one.  The more I check out various students’ Formspring pages, the more I’m growing in my hatred for cyberbullying.

I remember taking classes in developmental psychology in college while studying to become a youth pastor and hearing a professor say that internally most teenagers are walking around saying “Do you like me?”  I know, that sounds a bit overstated, and it may be – but I’ve found it very helpful in reminding me the importance of consistently communicating “I care about you and accept you.”  Anyone who’s been the parent of a teenager can affirm that especially after an argument or conflict teenagers are quietly asking “Do you STILL like me now?”  Cyberbullying makes this normal aspect of identity-formation that much more difficult and complicated.

So how do I prevent cyberbullying?

  • You can’t – but you can minimize it.  Even if your teenager doesn’t have a cell phone or any internet access he can still become the victim of others posting mean things online about him.
  • Be proactive in discussing media (especially social networking sites like FaceBook, MySpace, and Formspring) with your son or daughter.  Discuss the potential for cyberbullying and how to respond Christianly if he falls victim to it.
  • Consistently and clearly affirm and build up your child’s identity.  Help her value and treasure what makes him different form her peers, so that when others try tearing her down she’s already been built up.
  • Be an active listener.  Ask good questions (not accusing questions or leading questions).  Listen more than you speak.  If you son/daughter doesn’t experience you listening to him/her about “meaningless stuff” then why should he expect you to be supportive enough to talk about difficult issues arise?  With Teenagers you don’t prove yourself in crises, but in the monotony of common daily interactions.
  • Pray daily and specifically for your son or daughter.  Don’t pray simply for God to shelter them from harm, but for Him to strengthen your children to grow in the love for God and for themselves in the midst of difficult experiences.

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