Cyber Pressure May Be More Dangerous Than Cyberbullying

Cyber Pressure May Be More Dangerous Than Cyberbullying As most folks know by now, we have some concerns when it comes to social media and online behavior, especially for kids. It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing something about your personal information being sold or shared with third parties, and how our “digital footprints” may be more valuable than anything else we own.

Seems that North Dakota’s schools agree, which is why they’re now offering cybersecurity classes. Per Public News Service, “Ned Clooten, superintendent of Devils Lake Public Schools, said digital threats are not going away anytime soon, and argued it is important students have the ability to learn about them before they reach adulthood.”

“Hackers (are) trying to get access to our personal information,” he said. “Cybersecurity is a real risk.”

We don‘t doubt that this is an important issue, but we also don’t know if it’s really the one that schools should be focused on. (We also don’t know if it’ll matter, as recent news of cuts to school budgets makes us wonder if these improvements to the curriculum are even possible.)

There have been a lot of dangerous online challenges (remember the skull breaker? We do) and some kids got really hurt – and that’s the best case scenario. According to a report from Bloomberg, something called the “blackout challenge has been linked to the deaths of at least 15 kids age 12 or younger” and at least five kids aged 13-14 between 2021 and 2022.

It’s not just younger children, either. Something called the “borg” challenge led to 30 college students being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, and the “Orbeez” challenge injured at least two kids and led to criminal charges for a teen.

We’re not telling you how to raise your kids, but we do think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And while North Dakota’s schools have some clear guidelines on cyberbullying, there’s not as much on the effects of cyber pressure – and that’s what we believe is leading to all these kids getting hurt.

What is cyber pressure?

Cyber pressure involves the influence, coercion, or manipulation that kids face online, pushing them to conform to certain behaviors or expectations. This can include peer pressure amplified through social media, as well as unhealthy comparisons fostered by continuous exposure to curated online content. The consequences of cyber pressure for students may range from mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety, to engaging in risky behaviors to gain acceptance online.

Why cyber pressure works

If you’re like us, you probably wish your kid would put down the phone and go outside for a bit, maybe ride his bike or take a walk with her friends. But the truth is, the online world is as real and as fulfilling for some kids (and some adults) as anything “IRL.” And if you want to know why your otherwise reasonable child is literally choking down nutmeg on a video that he or she shares online, there are two things worth understanding.

First, back in 2018, Harvard University warned us that our smartphones, with their instant access to positive reinforcement, was making us dopamine fiends. Our brains are wired to reward us for “successful social interactions,” Harvard said. The more likes and reposts and shares we get, the better we feel. More recent articles and research have supported these findings, too.

Second, peer pressure is common for folks of all ages. How many times have you accepted a dinner invitation you really didn’t want to take, or agreed to help with a project because you felt put on the spot? Even adults can be pressured into behaviors and actions that we’d otherwise prefer to ignore.

So when you take a dopamine rush and mix it with an inherent desire not to rock the boat, is it any wonder kids are succumbing to online pressures?

How we can help if your children are hurt engaging in social media challenges

Discovering that your child is being cyberbullied or cyber pressured can be distressing, but if your child is injured, there may be legal steps you can take.

First, seek medical attention for your child. Some of these challenges are poisoning kids, so make sure to inform the medical team if that’s how your child was injured. Next, ask your child to save any evidence of cyberbullying or cyber pressure, such as screenshots, messages, or posts. If you have access to your child’s social media, save the evidence yourself.

Third, call our Minot personal injury lawyers. Depending on the exact circumstances, there may be multiple liable parties, including the school, other students, or third parties you may not have considered.

Reducing the risk of future physical and online harm

Help your child review and strengthen their privacy settings on social media accounts. Limiting access to personal information can reduce the risk of further harassment. Advise your child not to respond to or engage with the cyberbullies. Responding can escalate the situation or provide the bullies with the attention they seek. If your child feels pressure to engage in social media challenges, talk to them about the risks. Teach your child about online safety, including the importance of not sharing personal information and being cautious about who they interact with online. Help your child develop resilience by fostering self-esteem, coping skills, and a strong sense of identity. Reinforce that they are not alone, and there are people who care about their well-being.

Consider involving mental health professionals if your child is experiencing emotional distress. Therapists or counselors can provide support and strategies for coping.

Finally, make sure you stay up to date on the latest challenges. Some of them may seem “goofy” or harmless, but they can lead to long-term injury.

The attorneys at Larson Law Firm, PC know how to help children who have been harmed due to cyberbullying and cyber pressure. After you talk to the school, come talk to us to find out how we can help you and your child. To schedule a free consultation, reach out to our offices or complete our contact form. We serve clients across the state from our offices in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot. We are ready to assist you and your family through the entire legal process.