As you may already be aware, cyberbullying is a prevalent form of bullying. It's officially defined as the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. With so many kids and teens online these days, it can become easy for them to be targeted (or to target others) via text messaging, email, or social media.
However, as nasty as cyberbullying can be, it can morph into something worse: a phenomenon labeled “cyber-mobbing”.
What is Cyber-Mobbing?
Cyber-mobbing is similar to cyberbullying except that it generally involves more than one person or online-aggressor. Cyber-mobbing is defined as a group of people ganging up on someone using tactics of rumor, innuendo, discrediting, isolating, intimidating, and above all, making it look as if the targeted person is responsible (victim blaming).
Cyber-mobbing can be particularly distressing as it can make the victim feel as though everyone is against them and there's nowhere to turn. This is partially because it's difficult to tell who is instigating the attacks - the “ringleader” can sometimes be hidden behind the actions of multiple other people, leaving the victim unable to defend themselves from the lead bully.
Cyber-mobbing does happen and it's serious.
A recent survey released by the The U.S. Department of Education in July of this year shows an uptick in online abuse, though the overall number of students who report being bullied stayed the same. The survey showed about 20%, or one in five students, reported being bullied (ranging from rumors or being excluded to threats and physical attacks) in the 2016-17 school year. That's unchanged from the previous survey done in 2014-15. But in that two-year span, cyberbullying reports increased significantly, from 11.5% to 15.3%.
And increased cyberbullying could mean in increase in more severe group bullying, like cyber-mobbing.
Regardless, parents of kids and teens need to take these reports seriously. One of the most tragic examples of how cyber-mobbing can escalate is the death of 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick who was ganged up on, online, by approximately 15 other girls, according to authorities. It's believed that because of this intense cyberbullying and cyber-mobbing, she jumped to her death in early 2013.
Cyberbullying and cyber-mobbing can be just as damaging as “regular” bullying like rumors or physical abuse. That's why we encourage parents of kids and teens to open their eyes to this kind of behavior online and to understand how to help their kids if they should become the victims of it.
What can parents do to help their kids and teens cope with cyberbullies?
The first thing parents should do is open up a dialogue about bullying - whether online or at school, or anywhere else. It's important to discover what could be really going on in your kids' lives.
Here are some tips for parents on starting the conversation:
- Talk! Communication is key. Learn all you can about social media and your teen's online and offline life.
- Ask kids and teens questions, such as:
- I've been reading a lot about cyber-mobbing/cyberbullying.
- Does cyberbullying happen a lot? Do you know anyone it's happening to?
- Would you feel comfortable telling me if you were being cyberbullied?
- Do you feel like your friends would be supportive of you if you told them you were being cyberbullied?
- Have you ever had to delete a post or comment on your page that was written by someone else?
- I love you and am here for you if you need me.
If you discover that your teen is dealing with cyberbullying or cyber-mobbing, here are some tips to help them.
- Never respond to online harassment. Instead: Block and delete the post.
- If you are being threatened in anyway, gather and save evidence.
- Take all the evidence to your parents, your school, or any other appropriate party, so your parents can contact ISP and/or law enforcement.
And most importantly, leave the situation. Remind your child and teen that no one has the right to hurt, harass, or cyberbully them.