Teenagers have always faced bullying, but modern technology has created new methods of harassment. These days, instead of simply taunting a rival in the locker room at school, teenagers can use text messages, social media, and other online platforms to harass each other night and day, both publicly and in private.
Cyberbullying has become widespread in recent years, with recent studies showing that 52% of teens have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying is not only on the rise; it can also have serious consequences for both the teen being bullied and the perpetrator.
What Qualifies as Cyberbullying?
Simply put, cyberbullying means using technology to harass, taunt, threaten, or embarrass someone. Examples of cyberbullying include:
Potentially Serious Consequences
While cyberbullying may sometimes start out as a seemingly harmless joke amongst friends, it can quickly get out of control and lead to severe consequences for everyone involved.
Victims of cyberbullying may experience depression and anxiety, and have trouble doing well in school. Tragically, some cyberbullying victims have even committed suicide, including 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who killed herself after months of online harassment from classmates.
Teens who are caught cyberbullying face consequences ranging from being in trouble at home, to school suspension, all the way to being officially charged with a crime.
What Can Parents Do?
Whether you’re worried your child is being harassed online, or scared your teen may be cyberbullying someone, you don’t need to feel helpless in the face of cyberbullying. Some things parents can do to help deter cyberbullying include:
While cyberbullying can be a serious problem for teens, an environment of open communication at home and at school can help prevent it and minimize the negative consequences.
The Law in Georgia
Georgia uses stalking statutes to prosecute this crime (OCGA 16-5-90). Each school board must also adopt their own policy to prohibit cyberbullying.
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.