Cyberbullied – Could Your Child Be One?

As heard on the X-Zone with Rob McConnell

The X-Zone with Rob Mcnnell

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Before you dig in let me caution you. All of this information was for my use only during thise interview. It’s not edited, many times it’s not even a complete thought, but only a bullet point. I don’t worry about spelling or grammar, it’s simply a quick reference for me to use to jog my memory regarding the topic or topics that the host wanted me to discuss.

None of the information here should be used as a standalone resource, they are only my talking points.  

Over the years so many of my friends, family and devoted listeners have found value in these rough notes and ask me to share these notes with them. So, I decided if I was going to share them, it would be easier to share everything here. If by any chance you find that these ramblings helpful or they encourage you in any way, great!  Thanks again for listening.

Cyberbullying is the use of information technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner.

The practice of Cyberbullying is not limited to children and, while the behavior is identified by the same definition when practiced by adults, the distinction in age groups sometimes refers to the abuse as Cyberstalking or Cyberharassment when perpetrated by adults toward adults. 

It has been reported that 43% of teens reported an incident of cyber bullying in the past year and because of the technology gap ONLY 7% of parents are concerned or aware of the effects of social media with over 1,000,000 children affected last year by Facebook alone.

This is a growing concern all around the world as social media and technology soars to new heights.

Topic: Cyberbullied – Could Your Child Be One?


Our children are using the Internet more than ever. Most kids now not only have Internet access from home, but also on their mobile devices. For many children, the Internet isn’t simply a convenient way to research a fun afterschool activity; it’s also a very big part of their social life. It has virtually become a rite of passage like being able to date or getting a drivers license. Emailing and texting with friends are our children’s most common online activities. But just like any other social situations, some kids bully other kids, and it happens online as well.

Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but most often they do know their victims.

It has been reported that 43% of teens reported an incident of cyber bullying in the past year and because of the technology gap ONLY 7% of parents are concerned or aware of the effects of social media with over 1,000,000 children affected last year by Facebook alone.

This is a growing concern all around the world as social media and technology soars to new heights about how we can protect our children from these new online threats.

 Talking Points / Questions

1. So how can we protect our youth from the dangers of online activity?

  1. Talk to Your Child – while this is the biggest and best thing we can do, but it’s also one of the hardest! After all their teenagers, they don’t really want to talk with us their parents about anything. And do not pass judgment, do not react listen and remember some of the things you did at the same age as your children. Then be the parent and protect their ego, confidence, and work to help them where they are.

 Remember if you react, they will shut down and you won’t know anything.

Be Upfront with Your Child:

Let your child know that you will be checking their profiles, websites, cell phones, etc. because YOU CARE!

Children today view being connected as a right when it is really a privilege.

This is a conversation . . .You often ask your children where they are going and who they are going with when they leave the house right?

An Internet visit should be treated much the same. You should ask all the same questions whenever your child goes on the Internet.

Remember children are embarrassed and therefore very reluctant to disclose problems. Many times they are worried that their Internet and cellular phone privileges may be restricted or taken away, and this is a very big deal to them.

They need to know you are committed to helping fix a problem and not to punish them.

Remember many times they may feel this is their fault.

But whatever you do keep the lines of communication open!

Use the Internet with your child. Parents should be proactive about their child’s online activities. Spend time alongside your child and establish an atmosphere of trust.

This provides an opportunity for parents to engage in dialogue about websites their children visit and programs they are using.

Parents should be open to learning about technology so they can keep up with their children. Understanding how children use the Internet will give parents a better idea of the risks they may face.

65% of all parents and 64% of all teens say that teens do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about (Pew Internet & American Life Project, March 17, 2005).

 The Megan Meier Story.

Megan had met a 16-year-old boy by the name of Josh Evans, who friended her through her MySpace account. They began a friendship. Tina Meier, Megan’s mother allowed Megan to have a MySpace account with many restrictions and under her watchful eye.

Unfortunately, on that fateful day of October 16, 2006, Josh Evans and Megan began to have an argument over MySpace. A few others joined in and horrible and hurtful messages and bulletins went out publicly to hundreds of kids. The last words that were said to Megan from Josh were, “The world would be a better place without you” and “Have a shi**y rest of your life.”

Six weeks after Megan’s suicide, Tina Meier was informed that Josh Evans never existed. In fact, he was the fictitious creation of Lori Drew, an adult neighbor that lived down the street, her 13-year-old daughter Sarah, which was Megan’s former friend, and an 18-year-old employee that worked out of Lori Drew’s home.

This wasn’t all what it appeared to be. And a young girl committed suicide.

This was in 2006, however a similar story of the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick just happened in September of 2013. Not MySpace this time but Facebook. Rebecca Sedwick was 12 when she leaped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September 2013 after months of taunting and cyber-bullying.

In October 2013, the sheriff’s office arrested two of her classmates, 12 and 14, on charges of aggravated stalking. The charges were later dropped because of insufficient evidence.

But here’s another case of a larger number of lives that were destroyed or permanently scarred but cause of cyberbullying.

But there are more, like Ryan Halligan, Jessica Logan, Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd just to name a few.

Teenage suicide in the United States is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24. What makes Social Media use troubling are a few factors that taken together create a perfect storm for this type of issue.

Everyone is less inhibited behind a computer screen or phone keyboard. (The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo).

This is also known as the online disinhibition effect and is describer as a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the Internet.

According to psychologist John Suler, this particular occurrence is called benign disinhibition.

With respect to bad behavior, users on the Internet can frequently do or say as they wish without fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal. In most Internet forums, the worst kind of punishment one can receive for bad behavior is usually being banned from a particular site. In practice, however, this serves little use; the person involved can usually circumvent the ban by simply registering another username and continuing the same behavior as before.

But before you condemn all of these new Social Media sites take note the same problems occurred with CB radio use during the 1970s. We saw very similar bad behavior

Six primary factors behind why people sometimes act radically different on the Internet than what they do in normal face-to-face situations:

A. “You Don’t Know Me”

The notion of “You Don’t Know Me” comes down to simple anonymity: when the person remains anonymous, it provides a sense of protection; within the framework of the Internet, this allows the user to move about without any kind of indication of identity or even distinguishing characteristics other than potentially a username. This kind of protection can provide a meaningful release for people in that they feel free to say things they might otherwise be embarrassed by, but by the same token, it also provides an outlet for behaviors that others might term antisocial or harmful.

B. “You Can’t See Me”

The Internet provides a shield to its users; often all one receives when interacting with another person on the Internet is a username or pseudonym that may or may not have anything to do with the real person behind the keyboard. This allows for misrepresentation of a person’s true self; online a male can pose as a female and vice versa, for example.

Additionally, the invisibility of the Internet prohibits people from reading standard social cues; small changes in facial expression, tone of voice, aversion of eyes, etc., all have specific connotations in normal face-to-face interaction.

This particular aspect overlaps heavily with anonymity, because the two often share attributes. However, even if one’s identity is known and anonymity is removed from the equation, the inability to physically see the person on the other end causes one’s inhibitions to be lowered. One cannot be physically seen on the Internet, typically: therefore, the need to concern oneself with appearance and tone of voice is dramatically lowered and sometimes absent.

C. “See You Later”

The asynchronous nature of the Internet can also affect a person’s inhibitions. On internet message boards, conversations do not happen in real time. A reply may be posted as shortly as several minutes; however, it may take months or longer for someone to post. Because of this, it’s easier for someone to “throw their opinions out” and then leave; a person can make a single post that might be considered very personal, emotionally charged, or inflammatory and then “run away” by simply not logging in again. In this way, the person achieves catharsis by “voicing” their feelings, even if the audience is just as invisible. However, the asynchronous nature of the Internet also allows a person to more closely examine what they say and to more carefully choose their words; in this manner, someone who might otherwise have difficulty in face-to-face interactions can suddenly seem eloquent and well-mannered when reading posts or even in text-chat forums such as Twitter.

D. “It’s All In My Head”

Lacking any kind of visual face-to-face cues, the human mind will assign characteristics and traits to a “person” in interactions on the Internet. Reading another person’s message may insert imagined images of what a person looks like or sounds like into the mind, and mentally assigns an identity to these things. The mind will associate traits to a user according to our own desires, needs, and wishes: traits that the real person might not actually have. Additionally, this allows fantasies to be played out in the mind, because the user may construct an elaborate system of emotions, memories, and images: inserting the user and the person they are interacting with into a role-play that helps reinforce the “reality” of the person on the other end within the mind of the user.

E. “It’s Just a Game”

As we imagine the virtual world as just a game, a feeling of escapism is produced: a way to throw off mundane concerns to address a specific need without having to worry about consequences.

Many people may see cyberspace as a kind of game where the normal rules of everyday interaction don’t apply to them. In this way, the user is able to dissociate their online persona from the offline reality, effectively enabling that person to don that persona or shed it whenever they wish simply by logging on or off.

F. “Your rules don’t apply here”

Online, a person’s real life status may not be known to others. If people cannot see the user, others have no way to know if the user is a head of state, a celebrity, or a regular private citizen.

While real-world status may have a small effect on one’s status on the Internet, it rarely has any true bearing. Instead, things such as communication skill, quality of ideas, persistence, and technical ability determine one’s status in cyberspace. Additionally, people can be reluctant to speak their minds in front of an authority figure. Fear of reprisal or disapproval quashes the sauthority that might otherwise be present in real life are often completely absent; this turns what might otherwise be a superior-inferior relationship into a relationship of equals, and people are far more likely to speak their mind to an equal than a superior.

 2. Jointly Develop Rules Always letting them know you are on their side! 

  • But remember you are their parent first . . . not their friend.
  • Trust is earned over a period of time, and can be lost in an instant.
  • Respect their privacy and earn their trust on this issue, but what goes on behind an open door can be very different from what goes on behind a locked door.
  • Teach them this is what Social Media is like; what is shared on Social Media is never private.
  • If your children are under 18 you must be connected to them on their account.
  • Can’t have password you don’t know.

Case in Point:

What’s most interesting about a teacher who lost her job because of a Facebook post is her defense. Because her profile was set on the private setting, Rubio’s post only was distributed to her Facebook friends – a small, private, adults-only audience. Thus, she expected that only her friends would see the postings. Regardless of her claim, one of Rubio’s Facebook friends turned her in. The important (and more interesting) implication is the scope of “privacy” of Facebook and other social networking. 

With the boom of social media, the intersection with the law has become a topic of conversation. Most people assume that the information they send through their “locked” or “private” profile is actually private. Behind the veil of a computer screen, people are actually emboldened to post otherwise questionable material. Perhaps that is why the teacher and millions of others use Facebook to rant when angry. 

Teens are less able to recognize this concept.

 3.  Explore the Internet.

Do this by acting like a child. Search blog sites children visit to see what information they are posting. To ensure that children are not engaging in risky online behavior, we recommend that parents do a simple online search. Parents can type in their child’s name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or residence to determine information availability. Supervise blogs -not only what your child is posting but what other kids are posting about your child.

86% of the girls polled said they could chat online without their parents’ knowledge.

57% could read their parents’ e-mail.

54% could conduct a cyber relationship (Girl Scout Research Institute, 2002).

4. Talk with Other Parents and Caregivers.

5.  Connect with the School.

6.  Educate Your Children

  • Spend time with your kids on your account. And yes let them see your feed and your post. Express your concerns when you receive a friend request from someone you don’t know well or at all . . . how do you handle it.
  • Remember the learn more from what they see use do then what we tell them.
  • Teach your children to never give personal information over the Internet, such as name, address, telephone number, password, parents’ names, the name of any club or team he/she is involved in, name of his/her school, or after school job.
  • Pay Attention to Online Photos: Know the type of photos your child is posting online.
  • Teach them just because someone represents themself as a certain type of person, of a certain sex or a certain age . . . may not at all be even close to the truth! 

7.  Educate Yourself.

8.  Monitoring Software

Consider installing software that allows parents to control where children go online. Monitoring software gives parents the ability to view activity on the Internet and the authority to determine their child’s usual online chat buddies. Net Nanny Social is a powerful, cloud-based dashboard to help parents monitor the social networks their kids use.

 2. What are the first steps in becoming aware of what your child is doing online?

 Of the students that reported being bullied in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCES, 2013):

64.5% said it was once or twice in the school year

18.5% said once or twice a month

9.2% said once or twice a week

7.8% said almost every day

Of the students in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCES, 2013):

17.6% reported being made fun of, called names or insulted

18.3% had rumors spread about them

5.0% were threatened with harm

7.9% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on

3.3% were tried to make do things they did not want to do

5.5% were excluded from activities on purpose

2.8% had their property destroyed on purpose

Almost all forms of bullying peak in middle school and then decrease in tenth grade (Zweig, Dank, Lachman & Yahner, 2013).

The Urban Institute’s study on bullying revealed that 17% of bullying victims sought help after being victimized. Females were twice as likely to have sought help as males (Zweig, Dank, Lachman & Yahner, 2013).

71% of help-seekers turned to their parents

56% turned to friends

38% turned to school counselors

35% turned to teachers

 3. How has social media become a fixture for our youth?

 Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past.

Teens are increasingly sharing personal information on social media sites, a trend that is likely driven by the evolution of the platforms teens use as well as changing norms around sharing. A typical teen’s MySpace profile from 2006 was quite different in form and function from the 2006 version of Facebook as well as the Facebook profiles that have become a hallmark of teenage life today. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users on the profile they use most often.

91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006.

71% post their school name, up from 49%.

71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.

53% post their email address, up from 29%.

20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%.

In addition to the trend questions, we also asked five new questions about the profile teens use most often and found that among teen social media users:

92% post their real name to the profile they use most often.2

84% post their interests, such as movies, music, or books they like.

82% post their birth date.

62% post their relationship status.

24% post videos of themselves.

4.  Why is Cyberbullying is Different?

Kids who are being Cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are Cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.

Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen any time of the day or night.

Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.

Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.

5.  Things You Should Not Share on Social Media 

  • Party photos showing you inebriated or in a pose you should be in.
  • That you are having a party, you might get more guests than you planned.
  • Photos revealing you flirting with someone you shouldn’t be flirting.
  • Complaints about your boss, co workers, teachers, or classmates.
  • That you hate your job and want to leave, you just might get your wish sooner than you think!
  • Don’t share photos or an event that reveals that you were not sick that day off from work or school.
  • Drama with your friends
  • Issues with your parents
  • Passwords, yes really . . . and password hints like pet names, favorite signers, artist, stars, mothers maiden name, etc.
  • Images and videos of your children
  • Updates on Facebook after you have escaped from Jail and on the run (don’t laugh it has happened)
  • Revealing your thoughts about a court case… when on jury duty
  • Financial information such as how much money you do or don’t have in your bank account
  • Personal Information, your bank, your holiday or vacation plans and the dates that you’re leaving and returning.
  • Your daily schedule, burglars have been known to use these little hints to their advantage
  • Revealing extreme views on Race, Religion or politics

Finally, If you are not comfortable about it and would stand up at church or a family gather and share it, don’t share it on Social Media.


 Sexually Explicit Cyber-Bullying Campaign Targets South Florida Users

Rules ‘N Tools™ for Social Networking Sites

You Posted What?! “Private” Social Media Posts Are NOT Private Under Fourth Amendment

Teens, Social Media, and Privacy

Megan Meier Foundation


Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases

Online disinhibition effect


YouTube Resources:

Megan Meier Story