Cyberbullying: What is it, How Does it Work?

— by Diane Flanagan

Cyberbullying has become a widely discussed topic both inside and outside of schools, with anti-bullying legislation heading to the desks of people like Florida Governor Rick Scott after clearing the Florida House and Senate in April 2013. Other states are following suit, and Montana is currently the only state with no anti-bullying legislation on the books.

In today’s age of digital, with more adolescent exposure to television and Internet than ever before, it’s not hard for children to find channels through which they can victimize their peers. Satellite packages alone come with 285 channels, stated Slackware, making it difficult to control what content our kids are exposed to. That leaves it up to parents and lawmakers to try to prevent cyberbullying.

More after the jump.
How does cyberbullying affect children?

We know what bullying is, but what is cyberbullying? The main differences, according to Stopbullying.gov, are that cyberbullying can happen 24/7, not just on school grounds or in social situations; it can be done anonymously and spread very quickly, and ridding the digital world of the content afterward can be hard to impossible.

The effects can be myriad, but include drops in self-esteem, an unwillingness to attend school or a willingness to skip, falling grades, substance abuse and health problems.

How do we handle it legally? Do we do too much or too little with our anti-bullying laws?

New Jersey, for instance, is beefing up its anti-bullying laws to include incidents off school grounds and to strengthen its mandatory reporting policy. Many think this is a good idea.

On the other hand, many parents think that bullying has become a buzzword that’s being overused, with schools and parents litigating against kids for age-appropriate behavior, even if it’s mean. And some are even using the word “bully” against teachers on the courtroom floor.

What are parents doing to prevent bullying? Is it too much or not enough?

Parents who think the cyberbullying cause is overused are less likely to step to the forefront of their children’s personal lives; Others, however, think not enough is being done. This can take the form of talking one on one and monitoring from a distance, but it can also mean obtaining account passwords for more hands-on monitoring if behavior warrants it.

On the other hand, some parents think the current approach to cyberbullying is blown out of proportion. According to the New York Times, “What may be offensive in one household may be just a shoulder shrug in another.” Some parents just don’t believe in getting involved, and think that today’s obsession with the topic is just getting in the way of normal adolescent behavior.

Ultimately, it’s up to each parent to decide what to do. Until the issue settles down, and likely even after, the bottom line on cyberbullying will continue to be a matter of personal choice and debate.

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