With the digital age in full swing, there are more ways than ever to connect. The Internet has ushered in a new era of how people go about their daily lives. Online banking allows us to transfer funds relative to thousands of miles away. News outlets are everywhere, keeping us updated on the goings-on both locally and nationally.
Simply put, the world is connected into one huge and highly complex global community. For all of these daily routines that now come so easily, and news so readily available, there is a dark side to this brave new world in the form of cyberbullying. You might have heard of celebrities being trolled, or a hacker gaining access to a corporation’s database of credit card information, but more vicious than these is the threat of cyberbullying. Hence the need for Anti cyberbullying movements.
What is Cyberbullying?
The U.S. Government defines Cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumours sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles”.
Cyberbullying takes place on a number of different electronic platforms and communication tools:
- cell phones;
- social media sites;
- instant messaging;
- and websites are all found in the cyber bully’s arsenal of weapons.
Most of the time, kids getting cyberbullied are also getting bullied in person as well. The huge problem now is that once victims of bullying leave school, these emerging technologies make it possible for bullies to harass them after hours. Bullies can attack victims 24 hours a day, often altering a child’s behaviour and leading to more severe problems. Kids who experience cyberbullying are more likely to skip school, do illicit drugs, and have health problems.
Technology by itself can’t take all of the blame: the cyber bullies themselves and the culture of acceptance play a significant role. Cell phones, text messages, and social media sites are designed and used mainly for positive things like connecting students with family, school assignments and help with said assignments, and as a source of digital entertainment. The problem is it can be used to target victims who already are being affected by in-person bullying.
Who is at risk for cyberbullying?
Though some groups of school-aged kids are at a higher risk for being bullied- LGBT students, students with disabilities, students who have been socially isolated from their peers, anyone can be a target. Victims are often seen as unpopular and sometimes stick out. They can be singled out for: being over/underweight, wearing glasses, wearing “different” clothing, or for being perceived as provoking or antagonizing by their peers. Though these might be factors indicative of a higher risk of being bullied and/or cyberbullied, there’s no guarantee that any student will be bullied.
Information about students who are at a higher risk of being bullies themselves has led to conclusions that may appear contradictory: both popular kids with a strong sense of self and those with low self-esteem are at risk for bullying others. Their own path to bullying and cyberbullying others can stem from factors like:
- friends who bully or cyberbully others;
- a positive outlook on violent actions and mannerisms;
- and have less involved parenting or problems at home.
Regardless of the factors, bullying in any form, but especially cyberbullying, is a growing trend that needs to be monitored closely in order to stifle its acceptance.
Let’s not disregard the severity of this horrible trend. The victims of these personal cyberbullying attacks are often kids that are going through a lot of difficult experiences. Puberty, trying to figure out who they are as a person, and schoolwork are already a lot of stress for students to deal with without the worry of being a victim of online harassment.
Kids are confused and depressed and will do dangerous, harmful things to themselves and others in an attempt to alleviate their pain. Sadly, there are countless real-life examples of kids turning to drastic measures to try and take control of how they feel. Some resort to cutting themselves as a way to control the pain they feel. Others lash out and become a bully themselves. Perhaps most tragically is when these fragile souls will feel trapped and escape by taking their own lives or attacking their bullies with weapons.
Hope: anti cyberbullying
Thankfully, once the effects of cyberbullying became known, campaigns rallying under the banner of anti cyberbullying began taking shape. Across the country, organizations are standing up to this growing phenomenon and raising awareness of the harmful effects it can have.
The first step in the process is to educate. People, most importantly parents of school-aged kids, need to understand what the issues are. Parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing online, and are responsible for making sure they aren’t the cause or recipient of cyberbullying. The Anti-Defamation League has great resources available regarding guidelines for Internet use amongst kids and teens. Among the ADL’s literature on anti cyberbullying is a list of ways to ensure that parents are aware of their child’s online tendencies and can monitor any potential situations:
- Place computers in shared family rooms. Establish a consistent, helpful presence when monitoring children’s and teen’s computer use that discourages the perception that adults are violating children’s and teen’s privacy.
- Be aware of children’s/teen’s online activities. Initiate discussions about their online experiences.
- Instruct children/teens to immediately notify the appropriate authorities (parent or other adult family member, teacher or other school personnel, librarian, etc.) when they encounter cyberbullying or other hate behaviours online.
- Restrict time children/teens spend online and provide guidance for structuring online time. Limit unstructured random surfing and consistently supervise children’s/teen’s online activities.
Grassroots organizations stand to raise the most awareness in communities all across the country. Since the degree of cyberbullying differs greatly, it’s best to understand what the main problems and factors are at the local level. Anti cyber bully activists everywhere are conducting local research via surveys, community leader meetings, and public forums in order to get a grasp of what the community needs to do to stop cyberbullying.
Getting the local law enforcement on board is a major step in reducing outbreaks of cyberbullying, as well as creating a pathway for discipline for kids with the hopes of educating them about the negative outcomes of their actions. Community outreach events such as workshops and t-shirts promoting positive attitudes towards bullying and cyberbullying- have become a popular way to raise awareness.
It’s no secret that child rearing begins and ends with the parents. The ADL has recommendations for ways to keep cyberbullying from affecting their kids. One of the best things to do is to be a positive role model. Kids are sponges, and they often mimic their parents in an attempt to seem more grown up. Standing up against any and all types of bullying, as well as avoiding behaviours that might be difficult for a kid to interpret as anything but bullying are both excellent ways to positively show a kid that making fun of others and putting people down aren’t normal behaviours and should be discouraged.
If a parent finds out that their child is being cyberbullied by classmates the best thing to do is to involve the school. Bring proof of the cyberbullying to the proper school administrator and remain calm. Keeping cool is a must. Taking a team-based approach will help expedite the end of the problem.
Remember, cyberbullying is a serious matter, and can sometimes be too much for any parent to handle alone. If a kid’s emotional well-being is seriously at risk, don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement if hateful behaviour is involved. There’s also no problem with contacting a guidance counsellor at the school who has been trained to provide assistance with all types of harassment. If that option isn’t available at school, seek out a counsellor and arrange a consultation to help decipher how much of an emotional toll is on the victim.
Overall, anti cyberbullying is a great deterrent to a growing problem in America and abroad. Kids today have more stimulation and social interaction than ever before, and it can be a difficult task trying to monitor everything as a parent. As long as parents take an active role in their kids’ lives online and at school, the anti cyberbullying initiative will serve its purpose.