Cyber bullying is becoming a serious problem because so many people, especially youth, are online or use mobile devices: 95% of US teens are online, according to the Cyber Bullying Research Center.
Online bullying is both easier and harder to stop than conventional bullying. Easier in that a victim can ignore, block or report an offender and that may be enough to stop them. Harder in that cyber bullies are often anonymous, hiding behind screen names or anonymous email addresses. Their cruel or humiliating posts, videos or photos can go ‘viral,’ that is, be spread rapidly and widely across the Internet and even be picked up by news media. (Remembering anything posted in the online world can potentially be out there forever.)
Bullying online means that the bully doesn’t actually come face-to-face with their victim and may not realize how harmful or toxic they are being as they don’t see a victim’s response in real-time. A bully, particularly an immature teenager, may strike out in anger and fail to grasp the full consequences of their actions.
According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center, about 30% of students surveyed report being the victim of a cyber bully and almost 20% said they had bullied someone else online.
A Daily Mail article in 2013 called Facebook ‘the worst social media network for bullying,’ stating that teenagers were the targets of bullies almost 90% of the time. That same year, a The Trolled Nation study of online bullying showed that Facebook was the single worst social network for cyber bullies, with 87% of youth surveyed saying they were bullied on the site. A more recent survey showed that cyber bullies have been migrating to other sites, possibly because of Facebook’s attempts to tackle the problem. Young people now report more bullies on sites such as Instagram (42%) and Snapchat (31%), while Facebook’s share of cyber bullying has dropped to 37%.
Facebook seems to be taking the problem seriously, providing resources for dealing with it. Facebook has set up a separate Bullying Prevention Hub on the site, developed in partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The hub offers, according to Facebook, ‘step-by-step plans, including guidance on how to start some important conversations for people being bullied, parents who have had a child being bullied or accused of bullying, and educators who have had students involved with bullying.’
Recently, the social media site released a comprehensive manual on how to prevent online bullying for teachers, parents and students. Titled Empower Educators, Facebook’s new manual offers ‘resources and strategies for educators who have students who are the target of bullying, who want to help a friend who has been bullied or who have engaged in bullying behavior.’
The manual has sections on preventing bullying (‘By building a school wide bullying prevention policy and teaching emotional intelligence skills to your students, you can help to prevent mean and cruel behavior in the first place.’) and establishing a reporting system (‘Let students know when and how to report issues of bullying.’) The manual shows step-by-step how to deal with bullying, on line or in person, when it happens, offering tips, conversation starters, scripts to use when talking to students or parents and advice on setting up an action plan both for dealing with a bully and their victims.
Facebook, in fact, has an entire section on their site, devoted to dealing with the issue of online and personal safety. Open Facebook and type ‘Safety Center’ into the search box. Beyond the topic of cyber-bullying, Facebook also offers downloadable manuals on safety, awareness of mental health issues, online privacy and protecting your information (in PDF form) such as online safety for military families, suicide prevention, eating disorder awareness, safety tips for sensitive information, women’s safety, privacy and safety on Facebook, suicide prevention for law enforcement personnel, Baby Boomer’s guide to Facebook and cyber-bullying. Facebook says it is constantly working to update policies and community standards in order to ‘find the right balance between giving people a place to express themselves and promoting a welcoming and safe environment for everyone.’
Facebook’s Bullying Prevention Hub also contains links to other anti-bullying sites, such as Connect Safely, Family Online Safety Institute, The Bully Project, National Bullying Prevention Center, STOPcyberbullying and more.
Another good resource for cyber bullying is Ditch The Label, one of the largest anti-bullying charities in the world, which examines ‘issues including cyberbullying, abuse, online behaviours, online personas, and social media addiction.’ Ditch the Label states they have the ‘largest online bullying support community in the world’ and offers numerous support guides and resources for free through their website, including hundreds of articles on the subject.
Cyber bullying is an ancient curse in a new guise. As the world moves more and more online, so do our attituides and behaviours, and cyber bullying is one of the uglier facets of human online activity. Victims can be driven to suicide and affected by mental health issues, such as depression. If cyber bullying has affected you or anyone you know, please check out the resources and links in this article for more information and for support.
Email Liz at LizinBali@gmail.com
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