Cyberbullying is the act of bullying or harassing someone online or through social media. As social media becomes more and more popular, more bullies get online to harass classmates and innocent teenagers. Online sexual harassment is the act of harassing someone in a sexual way over the internet. It could also be convincing a minor to meet up with you to engage in sexual acts in person.

Cyberbullying issues in America

As social media became more popular, it also became more dangerous because of how some teens and adults choose to use it. Social media can be completely safe to use if you are responsible enough to know what's right and what isn't right.

Some teenagers don't think before they act. As a result of that, they end up in dangerous situations with people they don't really know. Online dating and friendships can be completely safe if you really know the person you're talking to. So many teens fall victim to cyberbullying and online predators because they meet up with people whom they don't know.

We all eventually want to meet our online friends and that's totally fine, however, it needs to be done safely. You should never invite an online friend to your home or to a place where you will be alone with this person. You should always meet in some sort of a public place so if something were to go wrong, there are other people watching.

It's sad, but many teens meet someone online and then two days later invite them to their house and when they show up it's an older male posing as a teenage boy. It's scary, but it's something that teens and parents need to be made aware of.

If you are a teenager and you and your online friend text every day, then that's great, but you still have to be careful.

If you guys only text then there's really no proof that the person you're talking to is really who they say they are. That's why phone calls and face to face calling is a little bit better. At least then you will most likely know that the teenager is actually a teenager and they are who they say they are. Teens will meet strangers through chatting apps and then meet with them to 'hang out' and that is never a good idea.

They may not be who they say you are.

It's sad to have to say this, but you really can't trust anyone before you get to know them.

Parenting your teenager's social media accounts

It's hard to really know what your kids are up to at all times. It's almost impossible to know exactly who your kids are talking to in school and online. You have to trust them eventually, to be mature enough to have a cell phone, social media, and friends. However, with that being said, they still are only kids and they need to act responsibly so bad mistakes don't happen. I'm not saying that you should monitor your kids' social media: while that may be a good idea, it isn't always going to work as almost every teenager knows how to get around parental controls.

So many parents get so angry and mad at their kids when they make simple mistakes. This causes the child to become distant and it will cause the child to keep secrets and lies from their parents. Now teenagers should always be held responsible for their actions, but if it's something simple that they did wrong, then just talk to them about it. That way they'll feel comfortable coming to you when they are in trouble.

My mom never let me date, have social media, or really anything for that matter. See, parents think that this is the right way to go and sometimes it is, but it always isn't a good idea. Some teenagers will still go around their parents and this is not a good thing. Now if the teen gets in trouble they won't know what to do because they won't be able to go to their parents to get help.

Monitoring your teenager's social media is good though. Talk to them about it. Ask who their friends are. Ask if they're dating anyone. This way you'll know what's going on in their lives, however, your child will feel comfortable about it versus snooping through their phone when they aren't looking so this makes for a win-win situation. Just be honest with your children. That's always the best way to go. You are the parent and they do have to do what you say. However, make sure they are comfortable talking to you about problems they may have.

Stopping online sexual harassment

A good portion of sexual assaults start online. One in every twenty-five teenagers has received a sexual solicitation message where the solicitor tried making contact with the victim offline.

This is a very large number of teenagers. Some teenagers feel that the person really loves them or that they really care for them. Unfortunately, these feelings sometimes put us in harm's way with the people we meet online. They say all the right things so we end up liking them and then we end up meeting them. And when we do, they turn out to be someone we didn't expect them to be. This type of circumstance is when teenagers are sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or in some extreme cases, even brutally hurt or killed.

Recently, WSBTV ran a story about a man from Atlanta started an Instagram account to message underage girls. Parents became terrified that their daughters were talking to this man.

FBI Special Agent Keith Kabrhel said “They’re not difficult to track. The difficulty about these cases is how voluminous they are. There’s just so many bad guys online looking to talk to kids." This is what's truly scary. These bad guys are not hard to find but it's difficult to catch them because of how many there are. You out one in jail and then three more pop up. Agent Kabrhel stated that “If a parent interrogates a child, oftentimes kids will lie. And if a child lies to their parents, they’re going to lie to law enforcement, which causes an evidentiary problem." This is what I was talking about earlier when I said that teens won't always tell the truth which is another reason why it's so hard to catch real online pedophiles.

Atlanta police have detectives on the case, but unfortunately, there are bad guys everywhere. There's actually an FBI group dedicated to fighting these types of crimes. The VCAC (Violent Crimes Against Children) Task Force fight crimes targeting children every day, however, they can't fight every crime that's committed. They also cannot catch every bad guy luring children online. That's why it's very important to talk to your kids about what's right and what isn't right to do online.

Many teenagers meet a friend online who then becomes a boyfriend or girlfriend. Over twenty-five percent of girls online receive at least one message from an older guy asking for sexually explicit pictures, whether it's from her online boyfriend or a stranger.

Some teens feel it will make their boyfriend (or in some instances, girlfriend) happy so they end up sending them. This is a very bad idea.

Amanda Todd, a fifteen-year-old girl, committed suicide a few years ago because of cyberbullying and online sexual harassment among other things. She had sent a couple sexually explicit pictures to a guy and many teens ended up seeing the pictures. Todd became very depressed and ended up committed suicide. This was a very tragic event, but it's also a story that should be taken very seriously because this could happen to anyone. If they ask you for sexual pictures of yourself then just simply block them. They aren't worth your time. Online relationships can be very happy things that lead to long lasting relationships, however, sometimes that isn't the case.

Don't do something for a guy just because he says he 'loves you'. If he truly loved you, then he wouldn't force you to do things that you're uncomfortable with.

I know you may meet someone online and they give you a lot of attention and make you feel loved and cared about. It's an amazing feeling. Just be careful. Know who you are talking to. Meet them in a public place so nothing bad could happen. And lastly, make sure you learn to love yourself before you let someone else love you. I see so many teens getting into relationships just because they want to feel loved to cover up the fact that they are feeling a bit insecure. I know personally how this feels so I understand. Just make sure they're dating you for the right reasons.

Final Thoughts

If you're a teen, act responsible and be careful about what you do online. Remember that colleges, employers, and other peers can see what you do online. I always tell teenagers this one statement. "Don't post something on social media that you wouldn't want your future boss to see." This is very important because we don't want things out there in the future. It may seem okay to cyberbully someone or it may seem okay to send sexually explicit pictures, but I can promise you that you'll regret it in the future. If you're a parent, keep an eye on your teens' social media, but make sure they know that they can always come to you to discuss problems.

Most importantly to all the teenagers out there, stay safe and always trust your gut feeling.

If something seems off then it probably is off. Don't do things under pressure that you normally wouldn't do. Don't change for anyone. Be the person you desire to be and most importantly, be you. Be the best you that you can be. And if you haven't heard this in a while, I am proud of you, for getting through school, even though it's hard, for dealing with your family and friends, even when they may stress you out. For trying the best you can, even when it seems so much easier to give up. And lastly, for trying to build your future the way you want it, even though people tell you that you can't do it. You can do anything you set your heart to. Don't stop trying just because you've failed. We all fail before we succeed. Learn from your failures. Strive for success because you can do this. I believe in you.