Cyberbullying: Starting the Conversation About Cyberbullying
October 1st marks Cyberbullying Prevention Month and in the wake of so many recent “bullycides,” we thought now might be a good time to delve a bit deeper into the frightening and very real world of cyberbullying. As you already know, there have been numerous cases of severe bullying (both online and off) popping up across the country, including last week’s tragic Rutgers case. Continuous, harsh bullying can affect victims in many different ways, including depression and eventually suicide, a term now referred to as simply “bullycide.”
Kids are not always open to the idea of reporting a bullying incident, whether they are a victim or a bystander. Many children think that telling a trusted adult may result in their computer or cell phone privileges being taken away. Dr. Jorge Srabstein, the Medical Director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at Children’s National Medical Center who testified before Congress about cyberbullying, said, “Unfortunately, it’s universally ingrained that reporting bullying is being a ‘snitch’ and trying to get someone in trouble.”
As parents, we need to work on changing that way of thinking. “Kids need to know that adults take their reports of bullying seriously and are responsive,” said Annie Fox to a concerned parent at last week’s Twitter party about online and mobile safety, alongside SafetyWeb and 5MinutesforMom. Fox has experience with issues just like this. As an educator, award-winning author, and long-time online adviser to parents and teens, she began an anti-bullying campaign on Facebook called Cruel’s Not Cool for concerned students, parents, teachers, and administrators who want to take action against bullying. The group’s slogan is “No one solution to bullying fits all.”
If your child is currently a victim of bullying or cyberbullying, check out “Annie’s 10 Tips to Help Kids Survive Mean Girls and Guys,” originally posted on Annie Fox’s website:
- This is NOT your fault. You haven’t done anything that deserves this kind of meanness.
- You are not alone. Unfortunately lots of kids have to deal with this every day.
- Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on. I can help. Together we can let the school know what’s happening and make sure they put a stop to it. If you absolutely can’t/won’t talk to me about it, you have to talk to a trusted adult at school. (Note: Targeted kids may resist all help. They may believe that bringing attention to the problem will make things worse for them. You have to assure them that while there may be some temporary social consequences for speaking up, by staying silent there is little chance that the situation will improve on its own.)
- Find at least one friend you can trust. It’s easier to put up with mean kids with someone on your side.
- Do NOT try to retaliate. Even though you’re hurt and frustrated and angry enough to explode, do NOT try to get back at the mean kids. Meanness only turns into more meanness. That’s how wars escalate. Seriously! Instead of “getting even” speak up for yourself by telling an adult who has some power to make things better.
- This isn’t about you. Happy, self-confident kids do NOT target others just for the fun of it. Mean kids often have problems. And major insecurities. They pick on other kids to make themselves feel more powerful. If their lives really were all that “prefect” they wouldn’t get pleasure out of making others miserable.
- You can’t control what they do, what they say, what they think. Don’t even bother. You can’t control the choices others make. You only get to control your own choices.
- Choose not to let them get to you. Mean kids say mean things. Words are the weapons they use. Their words can hurt, but they are just words. When you start believing the rubbish they say about you, then you are using their weapons against yourself. Don’t go there!
- Get involved in activities outside of school. Follow your interests and your self-esteem will soar.
- Real friends are trustworthy, respectful, supportive, loyal. Be the kind of friend you want to have and real friends will find you.
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