Take a stand. Lend a hand. Stop Bullying now.
These are slogans from national platforms designed to encourage ending bullying behavior. With anti-bullying efforts being implemented throughout the country, are we seeing a decline in bullying? Sadly the answer is a resounding no. In fact with the increase of social media, we are now seeing a rise in cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can take place over any digital device. It includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else. 70% of students report seeing frequent Cyberbullying online. This can include any one of these 7 types of bullying online:
- Gossip: posting or sending cruel gossip to damage a person’s reputation and relationships with family, friends, acquaintances.
- Exclusion: deliberately excluding someone from an online group.
- Harassment: repeatedly posting or sending offensive, rude and insulting messages.
- Cyberstalking: posting or sending unwanted or intimidating messages which may include threats.
- Cyberthreats: remarks on the Internet threatening or implying violent behavior or displaying suicidal tendencies online.
- Outing and Trickery: tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information which is then posted online.
- Nation: breaking into someone’s online accounts and sending harsh or unflattering messages from them which would cause a negative impact in that person’s life.
While the benefits of digital media can give youth the ability to share their feelings, creatively express themselves in a variety of ways and communicate with a multitude of peers, detrimental effects from this dependence on social media are beginning to plague our youth.
With perhaps the largest of those effects being the overarching negative impact Cyberbullying can have on our youth. Within the past year at my school many of my fourth and fifth graders rush home to get on their screens in order to “group chat” sending hundreds of messages each night. Sadly, they are not alone. Youth today spends on average 9 hours a day online with a sliver of that time, roughly about 20 minutes being for educational purposes
So what can we all do to help subside this cyberbullying trend?
Tip #1: Learn and Monitor:
Learning the apps and sites youth are on is a good start. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Musical.ly and Youtube are currently the most popular. It is also important to have an understanding of what our kids are doing online and why they may be susceptible to being a bystander of cyberbullying.
The top trends of online activities include:
Lurking: viewing social media feeds without posting. Think about our social media habits. I know I’ve been guilty of lurking or scrolling through mindlessly. For youth though it is a little different. They constantly ask themselves based on the content they are taking in if they are popular and are fitting in. It can include checking social media up to 200 times a day. Needless to say this causes a LOT of anxiety. They also lurk on Youtube checking out an endless stream of videos.
You know what all of these things are as we all do them on social media. However, for our youth this is becoming a self-esteem boost and competition to see who is the most popular based on the trend of the following of their social media discussions. Therefore, their self-worth and definition of themselves all becomes engrossed in this process. I’m so happy this was not the case when I grew up. Being a teen is difficult enough.
70% of youth participate in online gaming. It is important to understand though that this often opens them up to participants playing the game with them that are completely anonymous. These users frequently use bad language, and make threats. Monitoring your child’s social media along with gaming platforms is a good start. Set boundaries including knowing all of their user accounts and passwords.
Tip #2: Discuss being a Digital Citizen:
We have all seen the FB videos trying to let students know that things they post can go around the world. Safety on the internet is important learning, by so are all other portions of digital citizenship. We need to continue to grow our curriculum in this area in schools and have these discussions at home.
Tip #3: Know the Warning Signs of Cyberbullying:
- A child exhibits emotional responses to what is happening on their device (different from a tantrum with having it taken away)
- A rapid increase or decrease in texting and/or device usage
- Hiding their screen
- Avoiding discussion about what they are doing on their device
- Social media accounts are shut down
- New social media accounts appear
- Avoiding social situations
- Becoming withdrawn or depressed
It’s easy to think that our child would never fall victim or participate in cyberbullying. Sadly though, it is a different world today than most of us grew up in. The reasoning that “bullying is a part of life” has taken on a whole new meaning in this day and age. But if we all work together to create awareness, understanding and resources for ALL kids we will be able to lend a hand and take a stand against the rapid trend that is Cyberbullying.
Chrissie Kahan is an advocate for equity and students with disabilities. As an educator for the past 15 years and an assistant principal for the past 8, she has experience working in partnership with parents, teachers, and related service providers. Chrissie has always had a heart for children, especially advocating for kids who have been labeled as “behavior problems.” She is special-education certified and serves as the Individualized Education Program (IEP)/Student Support Team Chair within her elementary school.
She has authored the following books: Benny Gator and Angry Ana with the purpose of spreading awareness to kids and families in regards to the topics of anxiety and anger management. She has also co-authored the book Navigating the Road of Infertility with her husband. This book has been featured internationally, most recently on HLN for National Infertility week. She and her husband have founded the publishing company: King Kahan Publishing, LLC where their hope is to publish books that focus on spreading awareness to real world issues in a meaningful way.