Bullying is not a new problem. It has been around ever since human species started to socialize. Wherever there are schools, colleges, office spaces or even playgrounds, there’s a bully who preys on the weak to satisfy his emotional insecurities. But lately, it’s taking place much more often due to the expansion of the internet. Bullying has taken a different form, but effects are still the same, if not worse. Bullies now require nothing more than an online presence to cause chaos. Online anonymity has made them ‘cyber-brave’. In the past, however, victims were able to find some relief at home or find some private space to stay away from all the chaos. But now with everything internet, technology has made it impossible for them to escape the torment. Social media has made it much less likely for the bullying to witnessed by a responsible adult or a guardian. While not all the bullying cases result in a suicide, it certainly causes trauma and depression to the victims and often leads them towards alcohol and drugs.
In many cases in the past, parents were aware of the bullying and begged the schools to intervene. All of them were promised that action would be taken. However, it’s very difficult for schools to get involved in matters that don’t take place on school grounds. Regardless, these matters are far too serious to be left alone and school and parents must partner up to address them.
Ryan Haligan Case
The Cyberbullying Story: the website operated by Ryan’s parents, John and Kelly Halligan, early concerns about Ryan’s speech, language and motor skills development led to him receiving special education services from pre-school through the fourth grade. Ryan’s academic and physical struggles made him the regular target of a particular bully at school between the fifth and seventh grade. In February 2003, a fight between Ryan and the bully not only ended the harassment at school but led to a supposed friendship.
However, after Ryan shared an embarrassing personal story, the newly found friend returned to being a bully and used the information to start a rumor that Ryan was gay. The taunting continued into the summer of 2003, although Ryan thought that he had struck a friendship with a pretty, popular girl through AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Instead, he later learned that the girl and her friends thought it would be funny to make Ryan think the girl liked him and use it to have him share more personally embarrassing material—which was copied and pasted into AIM exchanges with her friends. On October 7, 2003, Ryan hanged himself in the family bathroom. After his son’s death, John discovered a folder filled with IM exchanges throughout that summer that made him realize “that technology was being utilized as weapons far more effective and reaching [than] the simple ones we had as kids.”
Jessica Logan (1990 – 2008) and Hope Witsell (1996 – 2009)
The Cyberbullying Story: Jessica Logan was an 18-year-old Sycamore High School senior who sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, but the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the photo was sent to hundreds of teenagers in at least seven Cincinnati-area high schools after the couple broke up. According to the University of Alabama’s cyberbullying website, the cyberbullying continued through Facebook, MySpace and text messages. Jessica hanged herself after attending the funeral of another boy who had committed suicide. A little more than one year later, 13-year-old Hope Sitwell hanged herself after a compromising picture of hers that she “sexted” to her boyfriend was shared amongst students at six different schools in an area of Ruskin, Florida, friends, and family told CNN. Hope never told her parents about the “Hope Hater Page” that was started on MySpace that led to additional cyberbullying.
What Exactly Is Cyberbullying?
Some students might not even realize that they are engaging in cyberbullying when the objective is to be funny. Following are the forms of cyberbullying:
- Starting online fights based on hatred towards a minority and pilling up people towards a cheap agenda.
- Posting demeaning comments on someone’s pictures and continuously harassing them to exclude them from some online group.
- Impersonating someone online to leak private sensitive information.
What Parents Can Do Against Cyberbullying
If your child asks for your help, you are lucky. Majority of teenagers don’t talk to their parents about any kind of bullying they face at school. If you notice any kind of unusual behavior that can’t really be ruled out as ‘growing up’, feel free to indulge. It usually starts with the reluctance to go to school, loss of sleep and too much time spent with cell phones and electronics. These are not always the signs of bullying, but you should certainly check with them to see if anything’s wrong.
Think about the matter thoroughly before you act. You can also make things worse for your child if you take any drastic measures. Cyber-Bullying is generally caused by a bully trying to demean your child in front of his pears, trying to get him/her excluded from the group to gain a higher status. If you take an action with the school authorities, it will further exclude your child from his peers. So, think before you act.
What Schools Can Do Against Cyberbullying
School system has a lot more power than it gives itself credit for. School should focus much more on teaching their students about dignity towards diversity. Schools should thoroughly inform their students about the legal consequences of participating in cyberbullying. Educating students about the consequences of posting personal information online can subsequently decrease the chances of cyber-bullying.
It’s very crucial for students of all ages to understand what cyberbullying is how it can affect others around them. Many students might not even cyber-bullying as bullying until some consequences take place. But as above mentioned cases have shown us, cyberbullying can be far more dangerous and terrifying than regular bullying. Teachers should be much more communicative to the students and encourage them to come forward if they were bullied and witness any kind of similar behavior. There should always be a counselor on school premises.
Parents need to overcome the generation gap and be friends with their children. Ask about their daily lives without judgment and support them through their problems. When there is indiscipline in the school, students are not always that straightforward to assign blame. They often fear prosecution for voicing their concerns and wouldn’t want to rat out their friends.
Implement Your Safe Hub in your schools for reporting purposes to protect your children/students. It is a special communication channel that protects such students with the power of anonymity.
References: [https://nobullying.com/six-unforgettable-cyber-bullying-cases/] (https://nobullying.com/six-unforgettable-cyber-bullying-cases/)