Written by Jennifer Stone; Sent by Olivia Lewis
On a platform celebrated for its ability to connect users, insecure adolescents are using the Internet to bully their peers. According to US News.com, cyber law experts estimate that at least 40 percent of high school students have been bullied over the Internet, and middle school students experience an even higher rate. Instances of cyberbullying have led to depression and suicide. While significant initiatives have aimed to end cyberbullying, the complex problem appears to require a demand for a wholesale solution. Until parents and teachers commit to proactively protecting young people, victims will remain largely silent.
There’s no quick fix to changing the culture of cyberbullying, but addressing the problem from different angles is the best chance to send a clear message and care for victims.
Addressing this issue starts with the public recognition that cyberbullying happens and is not acceptable. Although it seems like a simple concept, having a conversation about it in the class room or around the kitchen table informs those who knowingly bully, those who may not know the harm they cause and victims that cyberbullying is not a private issue and is not tolerated.
A public discussion can also spark actionable ways to prevent Internet antagonizers, such as school-wide or at-home policies for using the computer and responding to attacks.
The impersonal nature of the internet can cause cyberbullying victims to feel the urge to brush verbal assault off without telling, but experience shows that victimized teens need an outlet to express their emotions. In cases when victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward, anonymous hotlines have emerged as a useful tool. Cyberbullyhotline.com, for example, relays anonymous tips to the school level, where officials can address the situation on a more personal level.
Users can protect their identities and protect themselves from getting bullied through a hacked account by visiting Lifelock on Facebook, and now bullying victims can protect psyches. By spreading the word about these anonymous hotlines, more uncomfortable victims will be able to take action against their circumstances.
Open Lines of Communication
While anonymous hotlines offer some support to cyberbullying victims, they need to feel more comfortable reporting the instances in order to achieve a significant decrease in online verbal assault. To feel comfortable describing their experience, victims must trust that the listener has their best interest in mind. Whether it’s a parent, teacher or mentor, students won’t feel inclined to make themselves vulnerable unless they can do so in confidence, with the assurance that the people they tell will react accordingly.
Whether it’s on a playground or on Facebook, misguided bullies will continue to put others down unless authority figures react as if it’s not acceptable. If a bully punches an unassuming peer on the school yard, school officials would apply an appropriate punishment. Likewise, the Internet bullies must face consequences for verbal attacks. Parents have the best opportunity to monitor their children’s online behavior, whether it be by keeping the computer in a common room or “friending” their children on social media platforms.
Schools can take action, too. By defining a set of consequences for on-campus cyberbullying, schools send a message that they consider any form of abuse toward another student unacceptable.