A Global Look at Cyberbullying Among Young Children and Teens

It is well documented that bullying has moved from the playground into our virtual world.  More and more families and educators have become aware that cyberbullying is a pervasive global issue impacting tens of thousands of young childrenteens (and adults) each day.  So, while awareness is gaining momentum, the question remains – Are numbers of cyberbullying incidents decreasing?

The Research

In an August 25, 2018 article published by Sam Cook in Internet Providers, he wrote, “While better connecting the world and democratizing information, the internet has also allowed individuals to hide behind masks of anonymity. The “faceless evil” of the internet is a growing threat for teens, specifically when it comes cyberbullying. Despite a recent ramp up of awareness campaigns, cyberbullying facts and statistics indicate the problem is not going away anytime soon.”

The article goes on to say “A 2007 Pew Research study found 32 percent of teens have been victims of some type of cyberbullying. Nearly a decade later, a 2016 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center found those numbers were almost unchanged. By 2016, just under 34 percent of teens reported they were victims of cyberbullying. Meanwhile, the National Crime Prevention Council puts that number much higher, at 43 percent.” (Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2016-2018, Published by Sam Cook on August 25, 2018 in Internet Providers)

Social media is considered a primary source of online harassment.  Anonymity encourages cyberbullying for the simple reason that someone can send threatening or embarrassing messages or photos and not be seen or named.  Globally, whether teen or adult, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance and mental capabilities are fair game for online cyberbullying and harassment.

For young children and teens the way families and schools around the world recognize and respond to cyberbullying varies but, due to all the attention cyberbullying has received over the past few years, common tips and trends have surfaced in ways to recognize it, prevent it, know what to do if it happens to you and know what to do if you see it happen.

Echo Dot Dot Dot…

Remember when you first learned how to echo?  Maybe you were on a hike and your voice reflected off a wall or mountain.  Maybe you were imitating or repeating everything said by your best friend.  Maybe you were eliciting a sympathetic response to a sentiment expressed. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses a smart speaker Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news and more.

Until recently echo meant any or all of the above.  With the introduction of Amazon Echo and, most recently, Echo Dot For Kids into homes around the world, the word “echo” has taken on new meaning.

Echo Dot For Kids

Echo Dot For Kids is being marketed as a kid-friendly DJ, comedian, and storyteller.  Boys and girls can ask her to play music, read stories, answer questions, tell jokes and more.  If there are compatible Echo devices in the house, parents and kids can even “talk” to each other or tell each other good morning or good night.

Unlike the outdoor echo experience of a voice bouncing off canyon walls, young voices are heard, responded to by a voice-activated speaker recording everything your child says all in the “privacy” of your own home.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that children are a key market for tech companies.  With the introduction of Echo Dot For Kids, advocates by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) say voice activated devices could prove to be a security risk as well as just one more device to encourage compulsive technology use.  Further, Google, Amazon and Facebook have all introduced devices or messaging services for kids that could potentially put a child’s privacy at risk and cause further exploitation.

What’s next?  Is parenting being replaced with devices?  What are tech companies doing to promote face-to-face, authentic, family connections?

Managing Technology During Summertime

Summer is coming and with it the promise of exploration, adventure and fun! Summertime gives kids everywhere a chance to take a break from the school year routine and experience a more relaxed, unhurried, less structured few weeks.

What’s to prevent a child from experiencing a much needed unhurried pace?  Something that might be overlooked, especially by working parents, is kids, rather than parents, determining their own technology use time.

Pediatricians and other experts have sent strong warnings to the public that too much technology use (more than 2 hours a day) can result in negative behaviors and impact normal brain development. Given free reign to decide, studies show that children of all ages will spend up to 9 hours a day on technology – well over the limit of what experts recommend.

Recently, there has been a public outcry holding social networking companies responsible for our growing technology addiction.  While those who have been encouraging this addiction attempt explain away or, in some cases, find solutions, parents can take charge.  By limiting screen time, unplugging, and participating in fun activities kids will have greater opportunity to make the most of their summerbreak.

Set some summertime technology use goals ~

  1. Similar to a family tech use contract, make a summer tech use plan. List all the devices in the home, who uses them, for how many hours/day and prioritize health and well being over technology use.
  2. Everyone pitch in and take responsibility for daily chores.
  3. Read books together and play games.
  4. Take tech free walks, hikes or trips.
  5. Technology is part of our lives so rather than forbid it, limit it or save it for the end of the day.
  6. Each person in the family tell a story and use technology to make a movie, illustrate, or retell the story in their own words.
  7. Let your kids know it’s ok to be bored, daydream and be a kid.

Social Media Challenges Are The New Dares

Dares have been around for a long time.  Accepting dares for any number of reasons, kids have been known to burn themselves with erasers, touch hot stove coils, and choke themselves. Common results were pain, scarring or worse. Social Media Challenges are the new dares

In many cases causing, irreparable damage to a person’s otherwise healthy body, Social Media Challenges are the latest in what’s being termed as stupid and dangerous internet fads.   Social Media Challenges such as the  Tide Pod ChallengeHot Coil Challenge and Deodorant Challenge take inflicting bodily harm to a new level.  In the news recently, first, second and even third degree burns are known to be the result of holding an arm, for as long as possible, on a red hot stove coil (Hot Coil Challenge) or spraying deodorant on someone, in the same spot, for as long as possible (Deodorant Challenge) for all the world to see!

Accepting the Deodorant Challenge, 3 young teenage girls suffered horrific burns, were hospitalized and now face skin grafts.  The Deodorant Challenge, also known as the aerosol challenge, has been around for a while.  A year ago, parents were warned about the Deodorant Challenge and advised to impress upon their children the dangers of burns of any type including those from pressurized gas within a deodorant can.

Summer is coming and with it the possibility of kids getting bored and, to fill the gap, spending hours and hours on social media.  Social Media Challenges may be tempting so before boredom sets in, talk to your child about the dangers of participating in Social Media Challenges.  Help your child understand that Social Media Challenges may damage or permanently scar a perfectly healthy body ~ for life!

Teens of Value Social Media

Knowing why teens value social media is just as important as understanding why teens are taking breaks from social media.  Behind teens and social media is purpose driven social media marketing.  Not unlike adults, teens desire to be relevant, be a part of a group or community and have value.  Unlike when their parents were growing up and had personal friend connections but often limited transportation or restrictions on time to be with those friends, teens today can hang out with their friends, all the time, 24/7, wherever they are! Social media has created a feeling of connectedness never experienced in human history.

Teens talk about their desires, personal issues, fears, and thoughts on social media.  But there is a downside to all of this connectedness ~ social media is also where cyberbullying and sexual exploitation of young people occur.  Sadly, many teens and younger children, who are being victimized, seldom tell their parents until it is too late.

Parents need to be present in their teen’s social media world while educators need to be vigilant in recognizing signs of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, poor sleep habits, eating disorders or body image issues in their students, which all may be related to the affects of social media.

Digital Citizenship: More Important Than Ever

Respect, educate, prevent and protect are commonly associated with digital citizenship.  Today, we are finding these common elements are more important than even when it comes to how students and adults conduct themselves, especially on social media.

Digital Citizenship as defined in an article written by Terry Heick, is “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patters that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

Heick goes on to write, “As more and more students interact digitally – with content, one another, and various communities – the concept of digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.”  “The Definition of Digital Citizenship” (2017).

Heavy use of information technology today requires certain sites to set and enforce a standard of digital etiquette that involves the use of appropriate behavior and language. Without such expectations digital citizens may experience digital laws broken, rights violated, physical and mental stress, and/or online security jeopardized.

Brain and Social Media

There have been several articles written about how social media affects the brain. CNN reported recently that researchers at UCLA’s Brain Mapping Center found that when teenagers’ photos get lots of “likes” on social media apps, such as Instagram, their brains respond in a similar way to seeing loved ones or winning money.

Dr. Lisa Strohman, Founder and CEO of Digital Citizen Academy, in her frequent presentations to parents and teachers, stresses the fact that regions of the brain in teens become “activated” by “likes”, with the brain’s reward center becoming especially active.  She compares face-to-face interactions with online interactions and the obvious fact that, when you go online, there is no way to “read” someone’s facial expressions. Often interactions are misinterpreted and messages ineffective.

Teens spend an average of 9 hours a day on social media, which now researchers say is affecting the brain’s neuroplasticity – the way the brain grows and changes after experiencing different things.  What does this mean for future generations?  As teens grow up, will they, for example, be able to read subtle expressions on faces?   How will they adapt differently to their environment?

Impact of Social Media on Learning

Does social media impact learning?  Let’s look at the positive and negative impact of social media on learning.

Positive impact for learning ~ digital communication skills that need to be mastered including texting, tweeting, and Instagramming can be strengthened.  Students are more willing to complete assignments when they can use technology to research and share information, communicate or create ideas.

Using social media can foster collaborative community learning environments.  Students have options for creating authentic, creative work through blogs, YouTube, or podcasts – just to name a few.  It is yet to be seen whether or not social media can improve grades.

Negative impact for learning ~ Using social media can cause overstimulation and lack of focus, cyberbullying and plagiarism, distraction to the point of failure, poor decision-making leading to a negative digital footprint, and lack of adequate cyber security to protect students.  In addition, students unable to navigate platforms and operating systems find themselves at a disadvantage.

When it comes to students using social media, the impact on learning can be both positive and negative.

YouTube Safety: Get Involved

Are you involved with  kids safety online, especially when it comes to YouTube?

If so, what tips could you offer other parents about  keeping kids safe on YouTube?

What are some safety factors that parents tend to overlook but that are of vital importance to know about YouTube?

When using YouTube ask yourself the following:

Do you know how to set up a family account on YouTube?

Do you know how to turn on Safety Mode on YouTube?

Do you know how to create playlists on YouTube?

Do you monitor your child as needed on YouTube?

Do you know how to post in private on YouTube?

Do you know at what age kids are supposed to be able to start their own YouTube channel?

What Parents And Teachers Can Do To Prevent Cyberbullying

We have all heard stories and read statistics about cyberbullying at home and on school campuses. Parents and teachers need to work together to combat this epidemic.

According to Cyberbullying Statistics:

~Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online.

~More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats.

~Over 25% of adolescents and teens have been bullied  repeatedly or through their cell phones or the internet.

~Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Some TIPS on how can parents and teachers prevent bullying..

* Be aware of what kids are doing online.

* Become familiar with warning signs that your child or student is a victim of cyberbullying.

* Talk to your child or student about what is happening.

* Talk to your child or student about who is involved in the bullying.

* Document or keep records of everything happening.

* Intervene and/or get help for the victim(s) being bullied.

* Reach out to the bully to express your concern.

Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents so teachers and parents will likely need to be as persistent as the bully in terms of documenting, blocking, and/or reporting what is happening online.  Consider involving counselors, mental health professionals, and law enforcement if needed. No one should ever have to put up with cyberbullying!