Bullying has been a topic of discussion on an international level ever since the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd in October 2012. Not just bullying, but cyberbullying; the newest way to bully someone that takes place around the clock and never ends. Traditionally school bullying would stop for a child or teen when they got out of school or when they stepped into their home, but that is no longer the case with cyberbullying.
While a cyberbully victim is sleeping through the night—emails, texts, social media posts, pictures and vicious lies are being posted and shared. All the while, these cyberbully attacks collect comments and attention from others just adding to the suffering of the victim through modern day technology. This is what cyberbullying is all about, and it is how both young people and adults alike are being victimized around the clock. Everything is literally completely out of their control.
Cyberbullying is more than just a phase with no repercussions. Most adults can look back and identify with feeling that peer approval was absolutely everything. What the peers of today’s children and teens say online can have dramatic impacts on the daily life of the victim. Unlike traditional bullying where a fist may fly or a child may be pushed, a parent cannot just remove their child from the situation where the bullying is happening since the birth of social media brought about the ability to bully in the cloud.
In October 2015, my youngest brother Brock Cameron Smith took his own life as a result of being bullied. At school and at home; online and in person, my brother was bullied, humiliated and shamed. Prior to Brock’s suicide, I had published several articles and news pieces on the topic of bullying.
Since my brother’s departure at the innocent age of 14, I have become even more passionate about promoting awareness regarding the tragic effects of bullying on our daughters, our sons, our brothers, our sisters, our neighbor’s children, our colleague’s children, etc.—cyberbullying does not discriminate; anyone can be a victim if the person wanting to cause harm has access to technology.
While all forms of bullying are damaging, an online bully can create detrimental trauma and there is not a lot that the child/teen or parents can do about it, although awareness and laws continue to improve across the United States and the world. Even when someone is able to succeed in getting the bullying to stop, the damage has already been done since the evidence was posted online.
Furthermore, if the victim removes himself or herself from the technology, it still begs the question “why?”
Why should the victim of the bullying have to make even more sacrifices? This goes down to isolating the victim even more, which is exactly the opposite of what they need during such a traumatic time in their life.
As a society, people in organizations and authoritative positions need to do everything they can every day to stop the unbearable bullying and cyberbullying pushing so many teens and young adults to take their own lives, and to learn how to cultivate a new culture that does not allow the use of bullying as a way for people to treat each other.
One 14 year old girl commented on her cyberbullying experience on cyberbullying.us:
"They say sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That quote is a lie, and I don’t believe it. Sticks and stones may cause nasty cuts and scars, but those cuts and scars will heal. Insultive words hurt and sometimes take forever to heal."
While there are anti-bullying and cyberbullying laws going into place across world, we are just at the beginning of what needs to happen. People are simply not aware of the dire situation that is taking a rising death toll on our children. It’s time to become aware, get involved and spread the word about the dangers of cyberbullying.
Here are some frightening statistics:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the PRB.
In 2015, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported a suicide rate of 12.5% for teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 to 24.
TeenSafe published findings in October 2016 of a cyberbullying study showing tween and teen girls alike suffer at much higher rates of being victimized through technology.
Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
10 to 14-year-old girls are at a higher risk for suicide, according to the study above.
A study from the Cyberbullying Research Center polled 457 middle school students, ages 11 to 15. Out of the students asked, 43% reported being a victim of cyberbullying during their life.
Cyberbullying takes form in many ways, including:
- Leaving damaging text, voice or email messages
- Spreading rumors through social media and online platforms
- Posting/sharing distasteful or unflattering photos of the victim
- Hacking a person’s social media or email accounts to send messages causing harm
- Creating fake profiles to hurt a person or their reputation
- Making lies, rumors, sexually aggressive comments, or harmful messages on the victim’s social media accounts
Getting involved in bullying prevention is easy! Everyone should get involved, as cyberbullying is a growing societal problem, not just a problem for parents.
Visit the following anti-bullying and suicide prevention organizations to learn more about how you can help:
- Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
- Stomp Out Bullying
- Megan Meier Foundation
- Stand for the Silent (SFTS)