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Dangers of Cyberbullying

Talk to Your Child About the Dangers of Social Networking

The term “social network” is how we connect to other people using a platform that supports online communication, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Video sharing services such as Snapchat and TikTok are popular among millennials and the Generation Zeers. The use of such social networking sites raises many questions that pertain to ethics. 

It is not unusual to read critical, harsh, or hurtful comments on social networking sites. The harsh comments may be designed to embarrass someone or make them feel bad about themselves, making the recipient angry. They may want to lash out on social media in revenge. Before you know it the tone of the conversation goes from insulting to abusive.

Taken to an extreme, the harmful comments can lead to real danger including cyberbullying, especially when young adults are the target of those who abuse others online. Here, the words said take the form of aggressive behavior that is hostile to the recipient. Cyberbullying can lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide.

I have previously blogged about cyberbullying including the digital threats that was posted by Katherine Rundell back in January 2022. There is so much that has happened since then that I decided to expand on those thoughts.

Characteristics of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is one example that can have devastating effects on young people. Cyberbullying occurs when a bully targets a victim using online communication methods such as texting or social media posts to threaten, abuse, or degrade someone. With its use of technology, cyberbullying has gained more attention and notoriety in recent years. It’s a crime that doesn’t restrict itself to school or the playground.

What fuels cyberbullying? Unlike traditional bullying, it doesn’t require physical strength or a face-to-face meeting. Anyone with an Internet connection and a digital device like a smartphone, computer or tablet can be a cyberbully. There are no specific hours, and it can happen around the clock, whether through social networking sites or instant messaging.

When kids are electronically (cyber) bullied, it can be hard for parents to detect, until it becomes an overwhelming issue. A cyberbully can be a close friend or a faceless entity, a single force, or a group of people. Often kids and teens don’t share their online interactions with their parents, until these interactions become unbearable and even then, they may say nothing. There are so many social media sites your kids may use… Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, Twitch, YouTube, and online gaming platforms. It is hard to keep up with them all! Cyberbullying

One reader of my blog wrote in with great advice for those being bullied: If you are being cyber bullied, you should tell your parents/guardians. You may be dealing with a person who is just acting weird or someone who has severe mental/emotional problems and could be dangerous. Get help from an adult to help you figure this one out.

Dangers of Cyberbullying

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center raises a red flag about the dangers of cyberbullying for U.S. teens. Nearly half have been bullied or harassed online, with physical appearance being seen as a relatively common reason. Older girls are especially likely to report being targeted by online abuse overall and because of their appearance.

Nearly half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (46%) report ever experiencing at least one of six cyberbullying behaviors asked about in the survey. The following shows the types of such behaviors.

Bullying of U.S. Teens

Type of Bullying

Percentage Response


Offensive name-calling


Spreading of false rumors about them


Receiving explicit images, they didn’t ask for


Constantly being asked where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with by someone other than a parent


Physical threats


Having explicit images of them shared without their consent


Bullying occurs at the college level as well, although there is less research about how it harms others. College students might find themselves the target of malicious and demeaning behavior on the part of their peers (or even their professors). The outlets for college students to deal with these matters are less prevalent than for U.S. teens. One reason is college instructors are not as concerned about classroom management and are less likely to intervene in interpersonal disputes.[ii]

Talking to Your Children

Bullying is unfortunately still a prevalent feature of our children’s lives and wherever it takes place, in the real world or in virtual space, it needs to be uprooted. Cyberbullying is especially insidious as it can often take place in ways that are hidden from parents and infiltrate a child’s lives at every step. With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices, cyberbullying can impact a child’s sense of safety and security everywhere they go, following them from school to home through the interconnected web.

Talking to your child about cyberbullying means acknowledging the specific emotional and psychological harms that cyberbullying entails. For parents, the good news is there are many steps you can take to protect your child. Talking about digital boundaries and creating space for openness with your child can ensure they’re safe from the effects of cyberbullying. There are at least five ways to deal with the harmful effects of cyberbullying on your children as follows.

Creating the Space for Discussion

Creating a safe space for discussing difficult issues with your child can be challenging - often it’s hard to know how to approach topics. Children rarely want to acknowledge any victimization, so they’re often reluctant to be engaged in these conversations at first. One of the significant problems that’s unique to cyberbullying is that it happens in secret, private, virtual spheres, so ideally, as a parent, you can preempt any problematic digital interactions by creating a space for the discussion of these issues.

Try asking your child neutral questions at first - if they have heard of cyberbullying, and if anybody they know has been affected by it. By introducing cyberbullying as a topic without personalizing it at first you create the space for your child to feel comfortable discussing issues with you when they do arise.

At school, too, there should be a space for classes to become aware of the problem of cyberbullying, what to do about it, and how to prevent it. Ask your child about what measures are being taken in school to discuss and end cyberbullying.

The internet can often be perceived as a lawless place, where the rules and taboos of society are easily broken thanks to the digital barriers in place. For this reason, it’s important to talk about etiquette and behavior in digital spaces with your child. Teach your child that the internet isn’t an escape from real life - it’s an integral part of real life and the same rules and boundaries apply. Children should also know to respect others’ virtual privacy, not playing with their phones and other devices.

By building these ground rules into conversations with children, not only will they behave better themselves. It also gives them the tools to assess when others transgress, and to come and speak to you about issues they have online.

The world may have changed a lot since many of my readers were young, but it’s important to try to understand our child’s challenges through their own eyes and the cultural lens with which they see the world. When it comes to technology, don’t just come to conclusions. Act with empathy and you’ll build a strong relationship with your child, keeping them safe from cyberbullying.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 9, 2023.  You can learn more about Steve’s activities by checking out his website at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/.