Bullying is incredibly common: at least one in four students in the United States have indicated they have been bulled at school, and many more students have witnessed or participated in a bullying incident. Many parents may anecdotally remember bullying in the school building and the internet as a refuge from this on-site bullying. However, being surrounded by technology, social media, and digital platforms, cyberbullying has become an issue. Depending on ages and orientations of students, anywhere between a tenth and one half of U.S. students have experienced cyberbullying. (source)
Parents, educators, and mental health professionals in our communities are aware of how damaging cyberbullying can be, but avoiding it can be a major challenge. There are, however, steps we can take to keep our students safe. Preventing the problem involves understanding what cyberbullying is and ways we can take action.
Students may be cyberbullied on their phones, computers, and other devices by receiving harassing chats, texts, messages, comments, forum posts, and pictures that cause them emotional harm. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, anger and frustration, anti-social behavior, substance use, and delinquency.
The anonymity of the internet may give bullies a false sense of security. People may believe that, if they post things anonymously, they won’t get caught. When hiding behind a screen, cyberbullies do not necessarily see the reaction or pain that they cause, which makes it extremely easy to say and do things they would not otherwise do.
Cyberbullying usually has long-term detrimental effects. Victims of online harassment are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, mental health issues, disrupted academic performance, and impacts on overall happiness and well-being. That is why it is crucial to encourage victims of bullying to seek help: whether it is talking with your school counselor, a therapist, teacher, principal, parent, friend, or loved one. There are also suicide lifelines available for adolescents in crisis who feel like they have nowhere to turn.
Cyberbullying should not be seen as any less of a threat as traditional bullying. During Bullying Prevention Month, join the PALCS family by speaking up, reaching out, and taking a pledge to end bullying! #PALCSunites