WASHINGTON: Summer draws down and school is just around the corner. It is a time of excitement for many students and many parents welcome. Unfortunately, some students suffer resentment, jealousy or age-old bullying. And it is not just young people. Cyberbullying can take on new levels of horror when directed at high school and college students. (17-year-old schoolgirl commits suicide over Facebook harassment).
So what should parents of victims of school cyber-bullying do before the cyber torment turns deadly?
Many parents are familiar with the typical forms of bullying, but cyberbullying becomes deadly quickly. The victim is simply unable to get away from the bully and the harm, as in the student above, can be deadly.
Parents may have been a victim or knew a classmate who may have been a victim of schoolyard bullying. While regular bullying tactics have not disappeared, school cyber-bullying is a form of bullying that is not isolated to a classroom, lunchroom hallway or outdoor recess.
Thanks to the ever-present smartphone, iPad, and desktop, cuber-bullying takes bullying to a whole new, insidious level.
In years past, a child entering kindergarten, or even early elementary school, may have been exposed to some type of bullying experience – physical or emotional. Often the bullying incidents became more serious until hopefully an aware classroom teacher or parents recognize the bullying.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, “In 2017, about 20 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Of students ages 12–18, about 13 percent reported being the subject of rumors. In addition, 13 percent reported being made fun of, called names, or insulted.” Does any of these behaviors seem familiar or raise any concern for your child may have experienced?
When your child is being physically or cyberbullied, it may require further action. That the parent step in. According to the National Center study,
“Five percent [of students] reported being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5 percent reported being excluded from activities on purpose.
Additionally, 4 percent of students report being threatened with harm, 2 percent reported that others tried to make them do things they did not want to do, and 1 percent reported that their property was destroyed by others on purpose.”
Cyber-bullying takes threats to a higher deadlier level
Yet, with all of these woefully repugnant school bullying attacks, cyber-bullying takes student assaults on a child to a new, and too often, deadly level. Cyber-bullying can and will reach into your own home.
If a child is using a home computer or has a smartphone or a tablet cyberbullying can quickly escalate. A school child can be cyberbullied via email, a chatroom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging or even on websites. As students are permitted to access more and more social media sites a child can become increasingly vulnerable to school cyberbullying.
According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center “Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire examined the three waves of the Youth Internet Safety Survey (2000, 2005, 2010), and found a slight increase in cyberbullying behaviors over that time period (from 6% to 9% to 11%). This translates into tens of thousands of students across the nation being victimized by school cyber-bullying.
The Tragic Impact of Cyber Bullying
The tragedies that impact students and families due to school cyber-bullying are far too real and leave a pathway of destruction in the homes of far too many innocent students. For a Texas family, a daughter who had been cyber-bullied relentlessly by cowards hiding behind social media anonymity took her own life in 2016.
18-year-old Brandy Vela, had been cyber bullied at school because of her weight and was broken and shattered by it. One day, she decided she had enough and sat alone in her bedroom put a gun to her chest while her family begged her not to. She pulled the trigger and killed herself reported CNN.
The following year, in 2017, another family loss their innocent 12-year-old child due allegedly to school-cyber bullying. Dianne Grossman, the mother of Mallory Grossman tried to stop the continued harassment of her child by approaching one alleged bully’s parent. According to NBC News, the mother begged: “the woman to ensure her child would stop.”
The school cyberbullying harassment continued.
The Grossmans’ lawyer, Bruce Nagel, stated,
“The Rockaway School District and all the administrators “ignored months of pleas” from the family. He added, “[Mallory’s] life tragically ended when her own classmates used this cellphone to drive her into this tragedy,” Nagel said. “For months there were texts, Snapchat and Instagram — she was told she was a loser, she had no friends. She was even told, ‘why don’t you kill yourself.’” Reported NBC News
While there are countless more tragic examples of school-cyber-bullying incidents, there are ways that parents can identify and work to prevent school cyber-bullying from harming their child.
Warning Signs a Child is School Cyber-Bullied or is cyberbullying
Stop Bullying.Gov has created a list of warning signs to assist parents of students who are being cyber-bullied or are cyberbullying. Several of them include:
- The child is either increasing or decreasing the use of a device which includes texting.
- The child hides their device screen or the device when a parent is near and avoids discussing what they are doing on their device.
- Current social media accounts parents had access to are shut down or new social media accounts appear but are hidden from the parent
- The child gradually becomes withdrawn from the family, loses interest or even depressed
- Lastly, the child exhibits increased emotional responses such as laughter, anger, being upset to what is happening on their device.
Solutions to School-Cyber Bullying
The lasting devastation on students and their families can be dealt with if positive affirmative preventative measures are taken. While there is no magic wand that will address all school cyber-bullying actions, the following suggestions may help.
- Talk to your child. Make sure the child, regardless of age, is aware of what cyberbullying is and that they are not responsible for the bad actions of other students.
- The child, regardless of age, should know that they can bring the bullying to your attention and that you will help without judgment.
- Make sure your child is comfortable talking to you about his or her interactions with classmates on the playground, college dorm or online.
- Be aware of the child’s behavior or mood change and ask questions to determine what is occurring at school. It is very important that parents find out if the problem is centered around the use of their phone, computer or another digital device.
- If you believe your child may be suffering from cyberbullying do something.
- If there is a school cyberbullying problem, document how it started, who is involved and keep a record of all possible screenshots of the cyberbullying incidents.
Take your evidence to the school or college administration and report the incident(s) as well as filing a report with the police. In addition, report the cyber-bullying to the social media platform administrators and demand that the offensive content is removed.
In addition, make certain that your local social services or family services department is contacted and the incidents are reported. The social work agency along with the school counsellor may be able to identify the professional mental health assistance necessary to prevent further bullying.
And possibly save a young life.