The Facts of Cyberbullying: Teen Girls Have it the Worst
Cyberbullying has become a fairly recent epidemic among tweens and teens as more than half of this population use cell phones on a daily basis. A study done by the Cyberbullying Research Center (CRC) indicates that tween girls suffer from a disproportionate amount of cyberbullying, far more than any other demographic utilizing cell phone technology today.
The Cyberbullying Study
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying in which teens and tweens use technology to harass their peers. This form of bullying can take a variety of forms and use a wide range of technologies. Examples of cyberbullying include:
- Leaving harmful email, voice, or text messages
- Spreading rumors about someone online
- Distributing unflattering photos of someone
- Making harmful or sexually aggressive comments on a person’s social media accounts
- Setting up fake profiles in order to harm another person
- Breaking into someone’s email or social media accounts to cause harm through sending damaging messages
This form of bullying, like physical and verbal, can be direct, indirect, and relational, involving subtle tactics that can profoundly affect the health of tweens and teens who experience cyberbullying. Cyberbullying among tween girls in particular has been an area needing further research to determine the reasons, future implications, and ways to prevent cyberbullying among tween girls.
Cyberbullying Among Girls Vs. Boys
An alarming amount of girls are involved in cyberbullying, as much as 26% of reported cases as found by the CRC, compared to only about 17% of boys. Whereas boys typically want to figure out the “pecking order” using physical or verbal aggression, girls tend to use passive-agressive forms of bullying that can slip under the radar.
Anthropologically, cyberbullying fits well with the societal expectations of girls, including their tendency to utilize language and relationships to practice more subtle forms of aggression. Technology that includes texting and social media sites creates accessible and often subtle means for girls to bully their peers, regardless of their victims’ genders.
The Effects of Cyberbullying Among Girls
The subtlety of cyberbullying among girls does not make it any less threatening for those who experience it. Girls who experience cyberbullying feel the effects both at home and school, which is understandable as electronic devices are mobile; the harassment travels wherever they do. In addition, many cyberbullies have found ways to remain “anonymous,” hiding behind fake profiles or screen names that become difficult to track down. The ability for the cyberbully to hide her identity can lead to the intensification of the bullying tactics.
Tween girls are also liable to feel a myriad of emotions regarding the cyberbullying, including unsafe, helpless, angry, sad, depressed, and scared. In some girls, extreme emotional responses are possible, leading to the consideration of suicide.
While the emotional effects of cyberbullying cannot be denied, the CRC study found that about 55% of the girls who responded were able to dismiss the cyberbullies. The dismissals included the victims of cyberbullying referring to the bullies as pathetic, stupid, and not worth their time. This kind of coping strategy is good news on behalf of parents and teachers who are trying to prevent bullying, especially since approximately only 10% of tweens and teens bullied talk to an adult about the experience.
Because so few tweens and teens come forward regarding cyberbullying, and since incidents of cyberbullying can be subtle, it is best for parents and teachers to place a good deal of energy into prevention. There are many ways that parents and teachers can work with tween and teen girls to prevent cyberbullying.
Educate About Technology – The kind of smart choices and responsible behavior required to avoid instances of cyberbullying are also required when using different kinds of technology, including computer programs, email, and social media outlets. Parents should teach tweens the following about using technology of any kind:
- Do not give out personal information when online.
- Keep passwords safe, and do not tell others about them.
- Do not leave damaging comments on other people’s profiles, websites, or blog posts.
- Block people who are inappropriate or engage in harassment.
- There is no privacy on the internet. Do not share anything that is not okay for everyone in the world to see.
- Keep any damaging or hurtful messages received and share them with parents.
Limit Time with Technology – It is very tempting for tweens and teens to always be “plugged in” to their electronic devices. Parents can put limits on their child’s use of technology, forbidding it during certain times of the day using the Teensafe app and refusing to allow electronic devices in their child’s room.
To keep track of their tweens and teens online and prevent cyberbullying, parents should have complete access to everything their children are doing on their electronic devices. This kind of transparency can help prevent tween girls from having the opportunity to engage in cyberbullying, whether as a victim or perpetrator.