In 2011, 16 out of every 100 high school teens were bullied. That means if you have a thousand kids in your high school, 160 of them live unhappily because someone is picking on them. Cyberbullying has become an easy way for high school bullies to make other people’s lives miserable.
Are YOU a Cyberbully?
If you’re a cyberbully, you fit into the general overall category of being a bully. Cyberbullies are worse, however, because they pursue their victims 24/7/365. By using electronic media and the Internet, you can bully someone even when he (or she) thinks he is safely at home in the haven of his bedroom. It’s so easy to do it, isn’t it—the Internet is at your fingertips any hour of the day or night.
If you want to know how to stop cyberbullying, it means you’ve already recognised that it’s a really negative aspect of your personality, something that many people probably despise you for doing. Even if you think someone’s an easy target and it’s just too easy to resist, you’re wrong. Why do you think you do it?
- Many bullies have some kind of trouble at home. Even if it’s a deep, dark secret that you haven’t shared with anyone else, like a parent who beats you or a big brother who makes your life miserable.
- Maybe you just feel insecure about who you are as a person. It could be anything, your looks, your grades, your clothes. If you don’t really like yourself very much, those feelings might manifest themselves when you bully people who are less able than you to defend themselves.
You can change, but it won’t be easy. After a while, bullying becomes such a behavioural habit, it’s hard to break. Talk to an adult you trust, whether it’s a coach or a teacher you really like, someone you babysit for, or even the older brother or sister of one of your friends.
If there’s someone you’ve been bullying recently, you should approach them privately. Tell the person you realize you haven’t always been treating him right and that you really plan to change.
Make certain you keep your word. The next time you feel like shooting off a mean text or posting something hurtful, stop yourself. No matter how tempting it is, no matter how much of an easy target your victim is, take a minute to think about it—because the person is a victim, and you are the perpetrator. Even if your friends laugh when you bully someone, they won’t really respect you. You can’t hide behind mean words, even on the Internet.
Are You the Parent of a Bully?
Too often, the parents of cyberbullies turn a blind eye. If someone has approached you with an accusation that your son or daughter is cyberbullying someone, you should consider that the complaint has credibility at least on some level. Begin by asking yourself if bullying goes on in your own household, because your child probably picked up the habit of bullying right at home.
Talk to your child about what he or she does on the Internet or with his personal electronic devices. Find out if an adult you know has “friended” your teen on Facebook, and ask that person to take a thorough look through her Facebook and Twitter postings. Look through his notebook to see if he has drawn mean images of someone. Check her cell phone to see what kinds of images she’s got saved.
While most parents make every effort to respect their child’s privacy, it’s not wrong to check up on them if you think they’re cyberbullying someone. After all, it’s your money that’s making the cell phone and the Internet available to them. Take a stand and make certain they understand that cyber bullying is unacceptable behaviour. As in any other area of behaviour, you’ve got to hold your teen accountable and make certain you’ve drawn clear boundaries.
What Can Teachers Do?
It’s true that your hours are stretched thin, and everybody seems to hold teachers responsible for their students’ morals these days. But too often, teachers do nothing when they hear gossip in the school hallways about a bully.
The worst thing you can do is to tell a victim that he or she should forgive the bully or “be a bigger person.” If a student you’ve known for years has been accused of bullying, don’t just assume that this is a student who would never do that—behaviours change as kids grow into their teens.
When an adult knows about any kind of bullying, yet you refuse to act on your knowledge, you make the victim’s situation worse. You make that person feel more alone and helpless than ever, and that puts the victim in a really dangerous place emotionally.
If you become aware that one student is bullying another, hold the bully accountable. Check school computers to find out if the student has left any evidence there. Even without evidence, take him to the principal’s office and express your concerns in front of this authority figure. Even if you don’t have proof, most bullies will stop when confronted by authority.
If You’re Being Cyberbullied…
- Never let others use your cell phone or other personal electronic device.
- Don’t give anyone your password, even if the person is a good friend of yours.
- Find out how to block unwanted phone calls.
- Know how to block people on Facebook or other social sites.
- Don’t respond if a bully gets through to you—letting them see your pain just makes it more fun for them.
- Don’t delete messages from the bully—you may need them as evidence.
- Don’t assume a cyberbully is untraceable. Everything posted on the Internet can be traced back to IP addresses. Legitimate sites like Facebook and Twitter have ways to report usage violations. Most bullies will stop when confronted by authority.
- Tell the adults in your life. Let them help and guide you.
- Protect yourself: Never post personal information about yourself. If you wouldn’t want to see it in the newspaper, then don’t post it anywhere online.
Read More About It
Prevent Cyber Bullying on StopBullying.gov. http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/prevention/index.html
Cyber Bullying on OnGuardOnline.gov. http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0028-cyberbullying#help
Lohman, RC. Teen Angst: Taking on Cyberbullying. PsychologyToday.com. http://www.psychologytoday.com