Today the Internet has given us many ways to communicate thanks to the use of social media, email, instant messaging, online bulletin boards, newsgroups, etc. But these resources, if misused, can reveal a sensitive dark side: cyberbullying. But what is this phenomenon? How does it manifest? We Parents How Can We Prevent It?
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying means acts of bullying or harassment using electronic means. It is through insults, threats, mockery, defamation and social exclusion. Just like bullying, there is a high intention to harm but, unlike the latter, there is no need for bullying and victimization in the same physical and temporal context. That puts the bully in the position of advantage that can act undisturbed by concealing his identity (in reality, anonymity is only illusory, since every electronic communication leaves traces, but it is difficult for the victim to trace alone to the molester).
Types of Cyberbullying
There are several types of cyberbullying:
1. Flaming: This term refers to offensive and violent online messages aimed at triggering online verbal “battles” between two or more people. The typical case is by verbal insults within online discussion forums. For example, interactive Internet chat games on the internet can be targeted, with insults and threats, beginners who, under the guise of inevitably linked to inexperience, become subject to aggressive discussions. Fun seems connected to the pleasure of insulting or threatening the newcomer;
2. Harassment: It consists of regular offensive, ruthless, assaulting messages sent over time through emails, SMS, phone calls, WhatsApp, etc. In some cases, to strengthen its offensive activity, the cyberbully may also involve his online contacts, which are willing to participate in online assaults, even if they do not know the victim personally;
3. Cyberstalking: Repeated and threatening harassment and denigration aimed at frightening the victim who often provokes terror for his own physical safety. In this case, the cyberbullying, in addition to threatening the victim of physical aggression, may spread confidential material in its possession;
4. Denigration: The online spread of gossip and other offensive material to harm the reputation or friendship of a peer. The cyberbullies can, in fact, send or publish on the Internet modified images of the victim to ridicule it;
5. Impersonation: Pretend to be someone else by breaking or creating a fake account. In fact, the goal is to provoke a problem for the victim, to build a wrong image by damaging his reputation or friendships;
6. Outing and trickery: The cyberbully after having kept the victim’s personal and confidential data (recordings, confessions, SMS, photos, etc.) decides to publish them online, or spread them by email, messages, etc.;
7. Exclusion: Cyberbully decides to intentionally exclude a peer from an online group, chat, interactive gaming, or other password-protected environments. In other words, they choose to ban someone.
8. Cyberbashing or Happy Slapping: A boy or a group of guys beat a guy, while others record the aggression with their smartphones. Picture are then posted on the internet and viewed by users to comment, open discussions, vote for the favourite “fun” video, advise on high visibility, etc.
READ ALSO: EDUCATE FOR DIVERSITY
How do parents prevent or tackle bullying?
1. BE PRESENT: Our lives are getting more and more frenzied, and we often do not realize we are detached and less present in our children’s lives. Do not be limited to knowing how the school went, ask your children how they are, whether they are happy if they have new friends. Watch them. Tune in with their emotions. Be always there “here and now,” watch a movie with them, eat snacks together, laugh with them, play together, share feelings. Give an example. Do not expect your children hung up the phone while you talk to them if they tell you something important for dinner and you make the same.
2. BE INFORMED: Information is the first crucial step to understand some situations that can sometimes get out of control. It does not necessarily mean to know all the social networks your children use on a daily basis, but being aware of the dynamics of the system is very important. However, we do not have to give rules to our children without explaining them. We need to inform, update, put them in their shoes to understand their language, their dreams, their ideas, their expectations.
READ ALSO: THE IMPORTANCE OF DIGITAL LITERACY
3. TALK TO YOUR KIDS: Discuss with them the risks that are on the Internet. Teach him not to provide personal information (name, surname, age, address, phone number, name and school hours, the name of friends, but also e-mail addresses) that can make them effortlessly reachable. Educate them on diversity, on the importance of sharing, friendship, nonviolence. Teach your kids to use the privacy settings on various social networks correctly and to use any contact blocking features that annoy them online. Be open and willing to listen to their problems without judging them.
4. ASK FOR HELP: If you have any doubt that your son has been a victim of cyberbullying, or if he or she is a cyberbully, ask for help. Educators, Pedagogists, Psychologists, Teachers, and other experts will be at your disposal and will find the right ways to help you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Letizia Grasso, Educationalist
“All grown-ups were children, but few of them remember it” This phrase is engraved on my heart. The child who marvels of small things is always with me. I firmly believe that the school should focus on self-construction of knowledge through direct contact with the outside world and, therefore, through the experiences of life. A school open to life and from life itself learns, that therefore teaches to observe every little thing, to wonder and to ask questions. A school that forms adults who know how to reflect and put into a relationship the mind and heart.”