Recently one of our TAL Global team members received the following email from a teacher regarding an unsuspected cyberbully:
I saw your post on the TAL Global website about cyberbullying here https://talglobal.com/knowledge-center/cyber-bullying-deadly-serious/
Recently I found out that one of the nicest students in my class is a cyberbully. I told her parents, and they were seeking advice. Sadly, all they found was information that helps victims [of cyberbullying] cope. Do you have any suggestions for them?
I believe we can help.
But before considering some ways to deal with this situation, let’s make sure we are all on the same page about cyberbullying. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first-known use of the term cyberbully was in 1998. The dictionary defines it as:
The electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.
Today, that definition has been expanded. Many experts now also refer to cyberbullying as aggressive or hostile online behavior that
- is intended to cause harm,
- continues for a prolonged period,
- was not necessarily provoked, and
- not only targets individuals but can also target businesses, even entire industries.
Cyberbullying also tends to evolve. It often starts with mean or threatening messages to someone’s phone or email. From there, it can expand to include rumors, embarrassing photos, and crude images posted on social media in an attempt to embarrass or intimidate.
Why do some children behave this way? According to a study published in Family Community Health,1 many young people involved with cyberbullying do it because they believe it’s “fun”; it’s in retaliation for something someone else said or did to them; or it’s a reflection of their admitted low self-esteem.
Other underlying reasons children become a cyberbully include these:
- They are bored.
- They lack family or home structure or parental presence.
- They have been the victims of cyberbullying.
- They are trying to fit in.
- They want to feel powerful and feel better about themselves.
- They think their attacks are just “joking” and do not understand they are hurtful and damaging.
No matter what’s behind the bullying or what is causing it, parents and teachers must find ways to put an end to cyberbullying as soon as it is uncovered. For one reason, cyberbullies are often depressed. As they continue their bad behavior, the chances they will harm themselves increases.
That can also lead to other dangerous behavior. For example, cyberbullies might harm someone else or they may cross the line into criminal behavior. With all this in mind, here is what a parent or teacher can do should they discover a child is a cyberbully:
Talk to them. Do not punish or condemn the child. Give the child room to discuss the situation calmly.
Ask them why. Many times, the child will be very specific and tell you why they are sending harsh or threatening messages to others. For instance, they may be worried about their grades; they may feel their parents or teachers are paying them too little attention; or they may be being bullied themselves at school.
Help them understand how it feels. Often, the child does not realize their behavior is hurting someone else. As mentioned earlier, they think it is a “joke” and is being received that way. They must understand that such behavior is not a joking matter.
Take control. Some parents take their child’s phone and computer away from them until things “calm down” or the child’s behavior improves. Taking this step needs to be in collaboration with all of the above and very likely the following point as well.
Seek professional help. If the steps taken earlier do not help, teachers should recommend, and parents should consider, having the child see a professional therapist. Remember, cyberbullying is often an outgrowth of depression. We must address the child’s mental health before it gets worse.
We know this is an unusual post coming from a security and risk assessment firm. But most of our team members are parents and many have been educators as well. We know many parents and teachers are grappling with situations like this and need help. We hope this post has provided some answers.
Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and security-consulting firm. He served as a Military Field Intelligence Officer for the Israeli Armed Forces during the 1970s. As an intelligence specialist, Tal supervised and initiated behind-enemy-lines intelligence gathering relying on both hardware systems and personnel. Tal has also served as an anti-terrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, former President of World Association of Detectives (2000-2001) and holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com
Additional Information is found here: https://prezzies.com/from-cyberbully-to-thoughtful-parents-guide/