Nearly one-quarter of junior high school students and more than 15 percent of high school students reported being cyberbullied in 2015. And, since 2007, the number of people who have at some point in their lives experienced cyberbullying has almost doubled as of 2016. With the severity of this issue continuing to increase, it is sensible to now combat the problem with the same weaponry that the offenders use. Here are five methods of turning the tables and using your smartphone to prevent cyberbullying:

Use Privacy & Reporting Features

Most social networking apps offer privacy features to prevent other people from accessing an individual’s account and tampering with posts and photos. Be sure that your child knows how these settings work and if they do not (and if by chance you do not know how to walk them through the settings), tutorials are available either through the social networking site or YouTube.

Perhaps because Twitter is such a convenient medium for cyber bullying, the social media mogul developer modified their abuse report protocol, changing the history a user is able to provide from one post to five, therefore allowing accusers to make more solid claims, increasing the chances of the bully being banned from the site. Encourage your child to investigate misuse and abuse regulations on social media sites because the last thing a cyber bully wants is to loss his or her audience.

Block. Block. Block.

Though there have been cases of cyber bullies breaking into accounts and posting as their victims, it is far more likely that the harassment will come in the form of comments from bullies posted to the social network page of the victim. For this reason, it is imperative that your kid knows how to block contacts and comments from peers and “friends” who communicate regularly with your child on his or her social media page.

If your child is receiving harassing phone calls, with some phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, you can create a blocked calls list. Simply open the Phone app like you were going to make a call, tap More in the top right corner, and then tap Settings. Select the third option down, Call Blocking, then tap Block List. From there you can enter the number you wish to block. This is a great way to create a digital safe space where only close friends and families are welcome.

Use Effective Apps

The app Bully Block is a comprehensive application that allows those being targeted for bullying to record, report and block offenders. If your child flags an individual for blocking, when that person calls or texts, there will receive a recorded message or a busy signal. But if you and your kid decide to go on the offensive, the app can secretly record the interaction and by simply pressing a button, forward the audio file as a text message or an email to law enforcement. Bully block also offers a feature intended for “inappropriate material” that allows users to forward such texts or emails to their parents or law enforcements, and is also designed employees to be able to use if harassed in the workplace, at which time they could forward the material to their human resources department.

Cyberbullying has become a very real and seemingly permanent problem in modern society, so it will not go away if we turn a blind eye. Arm your children with the very tools that cyber bullies use for their attacks. Teach your kids to defend themselves and fight back with their smartphones.

Developing Solutions

Addressing this issue in your school community can be very easily accomplished through interactive workshops. Our staff has been performing these types of summits for years, and whether it’s through our student-centered Leadership Summit or our admin focused School Culture Summit, our workshops can literally change school culture overnight.  Through this work we have seen students and administrators come up with innovative solutions to help combat various forms of cyberbullying and social media pressures. Contact us today to learn more about how TEEN TRUTH can help you build school culture on and off line!

 

Cyberbullying Solutions

Cyberbully Prevention

With the rise of social media over the last decade, cyberbullying has become a huge problem for students and for schools. To follow up with my October post about bullying prevention, I thought it would be timely to explore the cyberbullying phenomenon in this November post. As a result, I will discuss the characteristics and apps associated with cyberbullying and then give strategies that counselors, teachers, mental health professionals, and activity directors can use to combat cyberbullying in their schools!

Definitions and Background Information

The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as bullying (harassing, threatening, embarrassing, or targeting another person) that takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones.

By definition, cyberbullying involves minors.  If an adult is harassing someone online or by text message, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyberstalking; this is a crime that involves legal consequences and/or incarceration.

Both boys and girls cyberbully, but they tend to do so in different ways; girls cyberbully by spreading rumors and excluding or making fun of others, while boys are more likely to send sexually explicit content or make physical threats online.

Examples of Cyberbullying

Below are some of the most common ways that students cyberbully other students.

  • Creating a social media group or website that makes fun of another student
  • Using social media to judge and rank groups of students
  • Sending a nasty/threatening email, instant message, or text message
  • Deceiving another student so they share embarrassing or personal information, the deceiver then sends that information to other students or makes it public in some way
  • Hacking into a student’s online account (email or social media) in order to send negatives messages while posing as that student

The Effects of Cyberbullying

Victims of cyberbullying often experience feelings of depression, fear, anger, anxiety, and insecurity in much the same way that bullying victims do.  However, because of the reasons below, cyberbully victims tend to experience these feelings on a deeper and more damaging level.

  • Cyberbullying is so much more public since students can forward emails/text message or create sites that reach thousands of people.
  • Since cyberbullying often occurs at home, the student is victimized in their “safe place”.
  • Students say things online that they wouldn’t say in person so cyberbullying is often more severe than regular bullying. 

Guidance or Character Education Lessons

At my middle school, we have an entire lesson we present to students in the spring over how to handle situations involving cyberbullying and sexting.  You can access my cyberbully prevention lesson plan here.  Also, here is a super helpful cyberbullying resource from Facebook that we use in our lesson.  We use this cyberbullying lesson to educate students on how to keep themselves safe from cyberbullying threats.  Then we teach them the definition of sexting, the fact that any nude or semi-nude image of a minor can be considered child pornography, and the serious legal consequences of sexting.  Our school resource (police)  officer co-teaches this lesson with us to explain the legal consequences of both cyberbullying and sexting. We remind students that if they ever receive a suggestive picture, they should immediately tell their parent/guardian and then delete the picture. As always, we email the lesson plan to teachers in advance, in case they want to participate in or expand on the lesson. 

Parent Education Workshops

An important part of cyberbully prevention in any school is parent education! It is a great idea to plan a spring and fall semester parent workshop to educate the parents in your community on how to keep their children safe from cyberbullying.  Here is an agenda for a cyberbullying parent meeting I had a few years ago, with links to the parent resources that we shared during the workshop. 

Peer Mentoring

Another way that we promote cyberbullying prevention in my school is through the use of peer mentoring.  All of our new students are paired with a trained peer mentor who goes over school processes/rules/consequences while giving them a tour on their first day.  Part of this tour includes how to get help for cyberbullying threats.  The peer mentor then follows up with their mentee weekly throughout the school year to check if they need any help with issues such as cyberbullying.  Here is a link to my peer mentor program training materials, if you’d like to start it up at your school. Additionally, Rising Up is an amazing SEL program that is designed to help stop bullying, end teen suicide, and build resilient students through peer mentoring.  Visit this link to start a Rising Up program at your school to combat cyberbullying.

The Main Apps Associated with Cyberbullying

In addition to mainstream social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, here are some of the main apps for parents to watch out for as they protect their kids against cyberbullying. 

Snapchat

Snapchat is an app with photo sharing capability where the photos automatically delete themselves in ten seconds. This creates a dangerous situation where kids feel they can send inappropriate or sexually explicit photos since they will only post for a short time.  However, we all know that nothing on the internet is every really erased- Snapchat photos included. Similar Apps: Yovo, Slingshot, Boo!

Tinder

Tinder is a matchmaking service with a minimum age of 13. Teens use it as a dating or hookup app, pedophiles have been found on it, and students have been caught creating embarrassing profiles of others on this app. Tinder also uses a GPS tracker to find the location of the user through their cell phone. Similar Apps: Bumble, Happn, OKCupid 

Kik

Kik is a texting program where students can send text and pictures without using their wireless provider’s SMS service. Thus, students may take more risks with Kik because they can send text messages and photos without parent knowledge. Similar Apps: Viber, WhatsApp, TextNow

Helpful Resources

These are some of my favorite cyberbully prevention resources!  I utilize them in my guidance lessons and in my work with parents.

Gaurdingkids.com

Cyberbullying Research Center

Kids Health

Common Sense Media

ncpc.org/topics/bullying

Rising Up: Coaching Program

Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?

Cyberbully (TV Movie 2011)

 

That’s all for today, Folks!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on helping students prevent sexting and/or cyberbullying, so please leave a comment below!  Hope to see you back here next for my December post!

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