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 to a relative 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 cyber bullying. 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 cyber bullying. Hence the need for Anti cyber bullying movements.
What is Cyber bullying?
The U.S. Government defines Cyber bullying as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyber bullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles”.
Cyber bullying takes place on a number of different electronics 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 cyber bullied 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 the bullies to harass them after hours. Bullies can attack victims 24 hours a day, often altering a child’s behavior and leading to more sever problems. Kids who experience cyber bullying 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 plays 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 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 cyber bullying?
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 for being bullied and/or cyber bullied, 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. There own path to bullying and cyber bulling others can stem from factors like:
- friends who bully or cyber bully 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 cyber bullying, 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 cyber bullying 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 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 attempts 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 cyber bullying
Thankfully, once the effects of cyber bullying became known, campaigns rallying under the banner of anti cyber bullying 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 cyber bullying. The Anti-Defamation League has great resources available regarding guidelines for Internet use amongst kids and teens. Among the ADL’s literature on anti cyber bullying 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 cyber bullying or other hate behaviors 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 cyber bullying 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 cyber bullying. Getting the local law enforcement on board is a major step in reducing outbreaks of cyber bullying, as well as creating a pathway for discipline for kids with the hopes of educating them to the negative outcomes of their actions. Community outreach events-such as workshops and t-shirts promoting positive attitudes towards bullying and cyber bullying- 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 cyber bullying from affecting their kids. One of the best things to do is to be a positive role model. Kinds 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 behaviors 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 behaviors and should be discouraged. If a parent finds out that their child is being cyber bullied by classmates the best thing to do is to involve the school. Bring proof of the cyber bullying 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, cyber bullying 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 behavior is involved. There’s also no problem with contacting a guidance counselor 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 counselor and arrange a consultation to help decipher how much of an emotional toll is on the victim.
Overall, anti cyber bullying 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 cyber bullying initiative will serve its purpose.