Cyberbullying: Warning Signs and Resources for Prevention

BGCA’s Youth Trends team is at it again with this mashup of information for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month AND Cybersafety Month.

We know young people spend A LOT on time online and on social media. Approximately 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online ‘almost constantly’. YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are now the most popular social media platforms for teens age 13-17.

How does this constant connectedness and social media culture impact teens? Well, it’s not all negative. Teens say that social media helps them stay connected to friends and family, provides easier access to news and important information, is a source of entertainment, and is a form of self-expression.

However, there are also some downsides. Teens reported that social media can lead to cyberbullying and rumor spreading, increase peer pressure, harm relationships, and cause mental health issues.

Cyberbullying takes place on digital devices like cellphones, computers, or tablets, and can occur through text, apps, social media, online forums, or online gaming. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying can even cross the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.

Approximately 1 in 7 teens (15%) report being the victim of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is more prevalent in girls (20%) than in boys (10%). Additionally, 27% of LGBTQ youth report being cyberbullied compared to 13% of straight youth. Unfortunately, nearly half of all youth who are cyberbullied do not tell a parent, teacher, or trusted adult.

Warning Signs Someone is Being Cyberbullied or is Cyberbullying

Many warning signs that cyberbullying is occurring happen around the device. Since youth spend a lot of time on their devices, increases or decreases in use may be less noticeable. It’s important to pay attention when someone exhibits sudden changes in digital and social behavior. Some of the warning signs that a youth may be involved in cyberbullying are:

  • Noticeable, rapid increase or decrease in device use, including texting
  • Emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device
  • Hiding their screen when others are near
  • Avoiding discussion about what they are doing on their device
  • Shutting down or starting new social media accounts
  • Avoiding social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past
  • Becoming withdrawn or depressed, loss of interest in people and activities

Preventing and Addressing Cyberbullying

As Club staff, you can help prevent bullying by talking about it and building a safe Club environment for all members. You also spend a lot of time with youth at your Club, and may be in a unique position to notice changes in behavior or signs that cyberbullying may be occurring.

  • If you notice signs of cyberbullying, speak to the child privately about it and include their family and additional Club staff if necessary.
  • In order to better understand digital behavior, increase your digital awareness. One example is Instagram’s new Parent Safety Guide.
  • Develop or run activities that encourage empathy building and self-reflection, asking youth to identify and express how they think and feel, and to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Help youth develop emotional intelligence so that they can learn self-awareness and self-regulation skills. Turn to BGCA’s Social Emotional Development Throughout the Club Day guide for activity ideas.
  • Ensure that the Club is a safe, positive environment by using BGCA’s Positive Club climate resources for staff, youth, and teens.
  • Run Be a STAR, BGCA’s bullying prevention initiative that aims to encourage young people to treat each other with respect through education and grassroots initiatives. The curriculum is focused on social and emotional learning and gives youth the tools they need to drive effective decision-making, creativity, relationships, and mental health.
  • Role model, reinforce, and reward positive behavior towards others.
  • Encourage peer involvement in prevention, such as not participating in cyberbullying and reporting any incidents to a trusted adult.

No matter what, it is important for Club staff to document and report any cyberbullying that they notice occurring at the Club. Follow your Club’s safety procedures.

Social media is a powerful tool that has the potential to bring us all closer together. We can all do our part to ensure that the Internet is an uplifting, positive place for youth!

How do you prevent cyberbullying at your Club? What other bullying prevention programs have been successful? Let us know in the comments below or at!

Did you see BGCA’s Instagram story yesterday? Instagram partnered with us to share some great tips!


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