This is an update to an ant-bullying article I wrote a couple years ago. I applaud states, such as Minnesota, that have established anti-bullying laws recently to help our kids be safer in our school systems. I, however, do want to caution that laws are fine, but we need to be vigilant in teaching our kids not to bully – and how to handle situations themselves (with support if needed) as I did.
Although the Internet was not around when I began being emotionally bullied in school because of my physical disability in the late 1960s, the hurt, regret and loss of self-worth are still the same for our children today.
My article focuses on the newest bullying tool – cyberspace.
All of us, including our children, need to be highly resilient in today's world. Adapting, finding common ground and sometimes persevering through actions of others not within our control are a few ways we do this nearly every day. Particularly, our children are facing the newest form of manipulation and harassment by others in schools and life...that is, cyber bullying.
Our homes have always been resilient sanctuaries where bullied kids could feel safe. Unfortunately, cyber bullying is starting to take that away from our kids, too. (Don't throw up your hands. Check out 10 parenting tips on cyber-bullying later in this article.)
I knew when I came home from school in the late 60s or early 70s that I was protected from emotional bullying– at least until I walked the school halls the next day having to display my lifelong physical disability (Cerebral Palsy). Protected from the emotional bullying of:
- Being laughed at and called a lot of terrible names in elementary school.
- Being pelted with spitballs after a basketball game in junior high.
- Being told by a classmate not to date a particularly beautiful high school girl and stick with your own kind.
- Being ridiculed by a classmate for taking advanced classes in high school because your kind only does menial work anyway.
At least I could shut the apartment door. Now, today, our advanced technologies don’t even allow our kids this safe haven.
Typical bullying that most of us experienced in some way growing up is, of course, still there.
Approximately, half of US students are impacted by traditional bullying each school day. It happens on buses, in the cafeteria, gym, hallways, playground, and in classrooms. The most frequent form bullying takes is words (the emotions of teasing, taunting, ridiculing, name-calling, and gossip.)
This type of bullying happens in the “physical” world where there are limits.
Cyber-bullying is making school days even more painful for many of our children. This is where bullying has changed so dramatically.
Bullying in cyberspace is not bound by school hours, school days, or facing the intended bully victim. Unfortunately, the perceived anonymous nature of the Internet often insulates the bully from the consequences of their damaging behavior.
I saw a recent TV commercial that really hit home as I have a 16-year-old teenage girl treading through the sometimes-challenging emotions of high school. She’s a really good kid like yours. But even good kids are not immune from hurt or hate...
The commercial shows someone writing an extremely hurtful remark on a social media site describing a particular girl using the “s___” word. The girl comes to high school the next day finding hundreds of posters tacked on the walls with her photo, name and, “You are a “s___.” She is crushed…
An extreme and horrific example, for sure… But not out of the realm of possibilities given the “anonymous” nature of the web.
As the number of households with Internet access approaches saturation and cell phone ownership expands to more than the100 million mark, so do the ways kids bully each other.
Cyber bullying in the form of text messages, emails, photos, website postings can go school-wide in minutes and global in days.
Slanderous information sent out into cyberspace is difficult, if not impossible, to erase. Cyber bullying often takes the form of cyber gossip, where damaging content is based on a whim; not facts, and is posted on social networking sites.
I sometimes cried myself to sleep just wanting to “belong” with the other kids – especially in elementary school. That is, until I learned to stand up to them with most moving to easier victims.
Now, cyber bullying is an even more frightening way to rarely feel safe from the emotional torment. It is so sadfully leading to increased teen suicides and unbearable despair for kids, parents and schools.
Cyber Bullying Getting Bigger: Studies indicate that cyber bullying incidents have at least quadrupled. A 2000 survey reported 6% of young people had experienced some form of cyber bullying.
In 2005, studies of 1500 Internet-using adolescents found that over one-third had been cyber bulled and half of those admitted to cyber bullying others. Another 2005 study revealed that 20% had been cyber-bullying victims.
A 2004 survey of 1556 adolescents also found that 42% had been bullied online. That’s 2004. Inevitably, today, that percentage has gone much higher.
There are so many web outlets and phone outlets for cyber bullying to be generated, including:
- Text or digital imaging messages sent on cell phones
- Instant messaging
- Web pages
- Chat rooms or discussion groups
- Other information communication technologies
Cyber-bullying Perpetrators - It Is A Cycle:
- A study: Middle school and high school girls were about twice as likely as boys to display cyber-bullying behaviors in the form of email, text, and chat.
- Middle school and high school girls were twice as likely as boys to report receiving email, text messages or chat room messages that teased, taunted, and ridiculed.
- 62% said that they had been cyber-bullied by another student at school, and 46% had been cyber-bullied by a friend.
- 55% didn’t know who had cyber-bullied them.
Only 20% of cyber-bullying victims tell their parents about the incident. Victims are most likely to tell a friend (42%).
Our daughter actually mentioned when she was in her mid-teens that she and her friends have received photo “requests” on Facebook, etc. Really scary stuff…
Ten Tips: Parents Cyber-Bullying Preemption:
- Consider installing filtering and blocking software, but understand clearly that proactive parents are the only real deterrent and the best resource for bullying preemption.
- Keep your home computer(s) in easily viewable places, such as a family room or kitchen.
- Model the behavior you want to see in your child.
- Talk regularly with your child about on-line activities he or she is involved in.
- Set firm guidelines for cell phone use and monitor that behavior.
- Talk specifically about cyber-bullying. Explain that that it is harmful and unacceptable behavior.
- Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and clearly explain the consequences for inappropriate behavior
- Encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is a victim of cyber-bullying. Tell your child does not respond to the bully.
- Stay calm. Plan in advance how you will calmly receive the news that your child is being bullied and the solution steps you will take. You will want the evidence. Tell your child to save the bullying messages or photo(s).
- Call your child’s school. Ask the principal what measurable, bullying preemption, activity-based programs they have in place today. Offer to serve on the group that expands the school’s behavior policy to include cyber-bullying behavior that disrupts the schools teaching and learning environment. Ask about results.
Even with cyber bullying, though, parents and schools are only a part of the answer – laws and guideline or not. As I have discussed in previous articles and discussions worldwide, the anti-bullying key I found is to increase our children’s self-confidence and esteem to where they can stand up to the bullies. It might mean a punch in the nose but most of the bullies will find someone more easily victimized and vulnerable.
This starts with parents showing confidence in their children and not trying to solve everything for them. My parents, who were extremely compassionate, caring and always there when needed, also allowed me to fall figuratively and literally.
I did not rely that they were going to solve all the bullying incidents, which ultimately made me “tougher” to eventually handle most of them myself. Being tough doesn’t necessarily mean your child has to “bulk up.” Tough, for example, is showing – at least outwardly – that whatever is said is not that big of deal.
While cyber bullying is a newer and very hurtful form of hate, it is still about trying to take your child’s power and control away from themselves. Solving such issues is not always easy and straight-forward, but finding ways to overcome may help your children believe in themselves and not always see themselves as victims – now and in the future.
It has certainly done this for me, and I know it can for your children.
Please contact me at 651-341-9826 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like me to talk in your schools and/or provide life skills’ programming that can be one tool to help solve bullying issues for your kids.
I hope you (and your children) are enjoy life today!