Cyberbulling: An Untamable Beast
The internet has the power to change the lives of young ones, allowing creativity, connection to the world, different perspectives, and a new way to access information not available over 30 years ago. However, an unfortunate and dangerous consequence of young people’s presence online is cyberbullying. Bullyingstatistics.org reports that over 50% of teens were bullied online, 1 out of 3 experienced cyber threats online, and over 25% of teens were bullied on a repeated basis. With this disturbingly high number, bullyingstastics.org also found over 50% do not tell their parents when they are bullied online.
Cyberbullying vs. Traditional Bullying
Cyberbullying is defined as willingly using the internet as means to intentionally and/or repeatedly inflict pain or harm on a specific person or group. When an aggressor uses the internet, they have anonymity, and often believe their behavior towards others online goes undetected. In addition to anonymity an aggressor has there is also a lack of supervision. Traditional bullying has existed for an indefinite amount of time whereas cyberbullying has become an issue because of the evolution of technological devices. Both forms of bullying are associated with increased social anxiety, depression, school avoidance, decreased academic performance, health complaints, and numerous mental health consequences.
Although there are similarities between digital and traditional bullying, notable differences exist. Traditional bullying involves direct contact with the bully at school. Therefore victims of this type of bullying may be able to avoid the physical presence of someone who cyberbullies once the school day is done. On the other hand, digital bullying comes with the possibility of adolescents being subjected to harassment anywhere on applications such as Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Addressing Cyberbullying in Schools
At a minimum, school administrators must update their school violence and bullying policies to include electronic harassment. Schools must also provide an understanding and non-threatening environment so that students feel comfortable to speak with their teachers and counselors. Therefore, teachers and counselors have a duty of care to intervene through discussion with students involved, and refer matters to support services, and depending on the state location, police intervention. Illinois law mandates schools in Illinois have policies addressing cyberbullying. A detailed explanation of the law can be found here: https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-laws/illinois
Resource for Parents
The following links provide valuable resources for parents who have children who are battling cyberbullying or know someone who is:
- U46 Cyberbullying Report Form: https://district.u-46.org/bullying/
- 10 tips for parents: https://cyberbullying.org/responding-to-cyberbullying-top-ten-tips-for-parents
- Tips for Parents and Teens: http://www.connectsafely.org/tips-to-help-stop-cyberbullying/
- Tips from Elgin’s Police Department’s School Resource Officers: http://www.cityofelgin.org/DocumentCenter/View/47632
- An overall comprehensive online resource: https://cyberbullying.org/
If you have any questions or comments about this article you can contact the author, Kavita at KAdatia@fsaelgin.org