Bullying is sadly not something new, but it used to take place in school hallways, bathrooms and playgrounds. Today the use of modern technology has changed the playing field.
Bullying is without a doubt as old as humanity, but the internet has taken bullying to a higher and more dangerous ground. On the internet, a bully can harass an individual anonymously and reach a much wider audience.
In many ways, when it comes to bullying online, the internet has made the world more rural. Before if a child was bullied he or she withdrew from the environment, but if a child is harassed on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat their entire social circle sees it. Cyberbullying often leaves the victim feeling lost and vulnerable.
Right here, in our small, rural community of Clay, cyberbullying is an issue that has become a real problem. A problem that has left children feeling depressed, unsupported and in extreme cases suicidal. In the past, few months we have seen a “burn book,” which if you haven’t seen the movie Mean Girls, is a book an individual keeps with photos of classmates that includes insults and ugly names. Photos of this burn book were shared online. On Clay Topix you can always find an anonymous poster belittling and harassing their victim. A grade school student was harassed on Snapchat by a middle schooler, six years older, who posted the child’s photo and called the child inappropriate names. Imagine finding out a 12- year- old had posted your 6- year- old child’s photo online and belittled him or her in such a horrible way. Imagine the heartbreak suffered by the child knowing that his or her social circle saw the post.
It is time that we realize that the inescapability of cyberbullying comes with huge and often painful consequences for children. New studies show that children who are victimized by their peers suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Statistics show that 160,000 children a day do not attend school due to fears of being bullied.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults and for every suicide among children there are 100 suicide attempts. Victims of bullying are 9 times more likely to commit suicide then non-victims.
No matter how loved a child is at home a bully can strip them of their self-respect, self-confidence and lead them to lose the person they are and the person they were meant to be.
The only way to get a grip on this growing situation is for the school system to take a stand. Anti-bullying campaigns are needed not just once a year, but monthly. The schools need motivated speakers and former victims to address students. Teachers need to be educated on how to handle cases of bullying and many schools offer an anonymous reporting system, which makes it much easier for a victim to feel secure while still speaking up. The county can even set up a cyberbullying hotline where children in need can turn for help.
School principals need to ask themselves if a bullying situation is brought to your attention, do you see a helicopter parent or the parent of a child broken by another child in your school?
Parents of bullies need to do their part as well by stop looking for ways to blame the victim. I am sure that it cannot be easy accepting your child is a bully, but by trying to justify your child’s actions only gives him or her more power.
We can stop cyberbullying, but we must work together. We must address bullying using meaningful and logical techniques to protect our children from harm. Bullying affects all children and it will continueif it is ignored and allowed to persist.
Tammy Marie Rose