One of the most wounding things a young person can hear is “No one likes you.” Most likely because that one phrase sums up our deepest fears: The fear of rejection and the fear that somehow we may not ever measure up.
And sadly, kids — bullying kids — use this phrase not always understanding it’s full weight along with other callous phrases such as:
“Why are you here?”
“Go kill yourself.”
“Why do people even like you?”
“You’re so annoying.”
“You gonna cry?”
“Chill out. It’s just a joke!”
Cyberbullying is the intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices — which means that it also comes with its own native language. And while we often associate it with youth, we can’t ever forget that every day — even all day — adults can be the worst offenders in the digital space.
Often, coded messages may be a parent’s first clue their child is being bullied (or bullying) online. Here are just a few texting terms related to bullying to look out for in your child’s digital circles:
Dirl: Die in real life
Gcad: Get cancer and die.
Foad: F*** off and die.
Fugly: F****** ugly.
IHML: I hate my life.
KMS: Kill myself.
KYS: Kill yourself.”
182: I hate you
4Q: F*** You
GCAD: Get cancer and die
FINE: F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional
FUB: Fat ugly b**tard
IWTKM: I want to kill myself
JLMA: Just leave me alone
Cyberbullying looks, sounds, and affects differently than traditional bullying simply because of the amplification factor of technology.
- Dissing: Sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors about a person (target) to damage his or her reputation or friendships.
- Target: The person who is on the receiving end of online social cruelty.
- Bash Board: An online bulletin board on which individuals can post anything they want. Frequently, posts are malicious, hateful statements directed against an individual.
- Exclusion: Deliberately excluding someone from an online chat group, friend group, or event.
- Flaming: Sending angry, rude, or obscene messages directed at a person or persons privately or an online group. A flame war erupts when flames are exchanged between individuals (or groups) repeatedly.
- Impersonation: Breaking into someone’s account, posing as that person and sending messages to make the person look bad or damage that person’s reputation.
- Outing: Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information online.
- Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude and wounding messages.
- Cyberstalking: Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating. Cyberstalking also includes engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety.
- Trolling: Intentionally posting confrontational comments about sensitive subjects to create conflict and bait others into an online argument.
While we can’t singlehandedly shift an entire digital culture, we can educate ourselves and our kids about the power of words, the direct and indirect ways people bully, and how to respond if in a hostile or intimidating environment be it online or in other areas of daily life.
Family Talking Points
Tell someone. Encourage your child to come to you (or another trusted adult) at the first sign of bullying or conflict online. Monitor his or her online circles and take the time to evaluate the tone of conversations.
Sometimes it’s a friend. Though rarely discussed, sometimes the person bullying your child may be a friend. Look for signs of intimidation, jealousy, insincerity, and dishonesty — the bully could be closer than you think.
Offer perspective. The emotional roots of bullying run deep. Kids bully for some reasons. Often, bullies hurt others because they’ve been hurt. They lack compassion, empathy, and kindness because they haven’t been shown that in their home environment. While this is no excuse, talking about this with your kids can help them not take the words of a bully to heart.
Words = power. Stress the consequence of hurtful words when they are shared and multiplied online. Be candid about the effects cyberbullying can have on another person such as depression, anxiety, and self-harm. Define and discuss kindness, empathy, and compassion and model it in your relationships.
Don’t respond. In the cyber arena, it’s wise not to respond to harassing, negative, or intimidating comments. The best thing to do (as hard as it is to refrain from engaging) is to print out the comments before you delete them and report the abuse. Also, save all evidence. If someone is bullying your child, print copies of messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages and take screenshots of posts or comments on social networks. Depending on the severity of the situation, report the abuse to the online platform, to school and/or the Internet Crimes Department of your local law enforcement agency.
Technology has elevated bullying to terrifying levels for kids. Be aware of your child’s demeanor by connecting and talking consistently. If your child’s schoolwork slips, he or she loses interest in friendships, or becomes anxious or depressed — it could be a symptom of being bullied. Follow your instincts, monitor devices, and err on the side of being intrusive if you suspect your child is suffering in silence.