Cyberbullying….would you know if your child has been a victim of it, a witness to it, or perhaps even a perpetrator of it? Most parents think they know what cyberbullying is. However, you may be surprised to learn it’s a lot more expansive than you think.
For many parents it is hard to get past the traditional notion of a school-yard thug when they hear the term bullying. So if their children aren’t coming home with a black-eye or torn clothes, and aren’t pretending to be sick to avoid school, these parents aren’t too concerned about bullying.
But cyberbullying is something very different. It is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. It includes unkind text messages or emails, spreading cruel rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and/or embarrassing (often modified) pictures, videos, websites, and online profiles, designed to hurt other people.
Cyberbullying distinguishes itself over traditional bullying because of the electronic medium being used. Significantly, this allows a cyberbully to remain anonymous. Anyone can be one – and relatively easily – implying that you do not have to be the stereotypical tough-guy jock to be a bully in this day and age. This significantly broadens the pool of people that can bullying. Moreover, under the cover of anonymity, the bullying often goes on for much longer than traditional physical bullying. Sometimes much, much longer.
Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar. Kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to:
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
- Use alcohol and drugs
The victims of cyberbullying often suffer symptoms of depression, and in extreme cases have even taken their own life.
What’s worrisome is cyberbullying is on the rise. The 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) found that 6% of students (grades 6-12) experienced cyberbullying. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year.
Today estimates are as high as 33% of students are affected by cyberbullying. It is no wonder given the proliferation of internet-enabled devices and the complete lack of accountability children have when cloaked in anonymity.
Parents, educators, police authorities and government legislators alike have all been caught off guard by the speed with which this phenomenon has infected modern culture. Complicating matters greatly is the fact that the vast majority of perpetrators of cyberbulling are minors. Exacerbating the problem further is the general ignorance that many (most?) parents have of this issue. As a result a growing number of educational researchers believe there is a perfect storm developing around this growing problem.
Research on cyberbullying is growing. However, because kids’ technology use changes rapidly, it is difficult to design surveys that accurately capture trends. So what are parents to do?
As a concerned internet parent I have done my fair share of research on cyberbullying, and I can tell you without hesitation that the absolute best documentary film covering this subject is “Submit the Documentary” which released earlier this year and has already won numerous international awards.
Everyone here at WebCurfew believes that the first step in getting our arms around this problem is by understanding it. I strongly encourage every parent to watch this film to better understand this disturbing trend. Then have a frank and candidate discussion with your children on this subject. Then watch the film again with them.
Here is a link to the official trailer to the film and here is the hour long film in its entirety. Please help me spread the word to other parents about this important film.
Until next time...