Parents can probably relate to arguments they’ve seen online played out in the comments section of a social media post. They quickly devolve into stressful, hurtful and pointed attacks — and these are adults!
Imagine being a child and having access to the same platforms and technology, but without the life experience and emotional maturity to handle disagreements and roiling tempers.
Now, add into the mix the traditional elements of childhood bullying. The result is a recipe for disaster, and probably very unlike what you experienced growing up. The emotional and confrontational core may be the same, but cyberbullying gets played out much differently in the lives of today’s children, tweens, and teens.
In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into current examples of cyberbullying and explain how they’re more serious than you may think.
Location and time no longer matter
In days of bullying past, anxiety often centered around running into bullies at school, on the playground, or at the mall. While these locales may have been unavoidable at times, there was at least some reprieve when you got home.
Today, the entirety of cyberbullying happens online. It can happen any time of day and at any place you can bring a phone — on the bus, at the dinner table, at church. Kids can even hear the ping of a nasty message while sitting next to their parents on the couch.
Home is no longer a safe space, as late into the night kids can be hunched under the covers, trying desperately to make sense of the vitriol being posted online about them.
More avenues to harass
There are countless ways that children torment each other online, and each has its own peculiar M.O. There are active ways — things like aggressive and taunting texts, emails, chats and comments. And then there are passive ways — posting a mean photo or a screenshot on Snapchat, for instance, that can be seen by hundreds of other kids in a matter of minutes.
Though the traditional advice is to block or defriend a cyberbully, cyberbullies can simply switch to another platform to continue harassing, like a social media hydra. This inescapability is what can make cyberbullying so dangerous — and hard to fight.
Also prevalent is an activity known as “siccing,” where one bully recruits friends to gang up on a victim and launch a joint attack on their social media account. In these situations, the onslaught can be terrifying and near impossible to ignore.
Burn Books have become ebooks
Burn Books used to be destructive forms of social currency, and were a perfect example of the incredible powers of groupthink in bullying. They’d be passed around and shared, and page after page would be filled with mean, hurtful statements about people.
Today, there’s no need for a physical book that could be left behind or confiscated. They exist online in Google Docs and in files. They can be password protected and shared peer-to-peer instantly.
Today’s Burn Books may also take the shape of private, invite-only group chats and messages, portions of which can be leaked out via screenshots and shared online.
Anonymity enables teasing without confrontation
It was always possible for rumors to spread anonymously — think rude messages scrawled on bathroom walls, lies whispered ear-to-ear through the hallways — but with the internet, anonymity has become part and parcel of cyberbullying.
Especially popular right now are anonymous messaging apps that pop up and make the rounds at schools. Kids can log in and leave hurtful comments anonymously, unattached to their real names, email addresses, or phone numbers.
Impersonating can be done in a matter of seconds
The closest analogue for this type of cyberbullying in the past was impersonating someone on the phone — but even that doesn’t really come close to what’s happening now. These days, kids can quickly and easily create brand-new Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media profiles pretending to be another child.
They then post embarrassing, scandalous, or even illegal activities to try and get the victim in trouble. Not only does it affect the victim’s sense of worth, it’s often made public for the entire school community to see, as well, adding humiliation to the sense of invasion.
At Bark, we know cyberbullying can be a frightening — and complicated — issue for children and parents alike. We’ve also seen firsthand how devastating the effects of bullying can be. Check out this video to learn more about why we started Bark, as well as some of the warning signs your child is being cyberbullied.