We all grew up knowing kids could be mean and that there were bullies in our schools. Some of us were bullied, some did the bullying, and some just observed. Some believe this is a rite of passage and we shouldn’t get all upset about it. The truth is, it's getting worse. According to the National Education Association, 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of bullying. In addition, 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools every month
. And, 90% of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying. Harassment and bullying has been linked to 75% of school shooting incidents. While this problem of physical bullying continues and is getting worse, technology has added a new twist to this in the form of cyber bullying.
The anonymity of the web makes it easier for people, who might otherwise be too reserved to threaten someone in person, to say or do things against others online. And, it's a lot easier for others to "pile on" when someone else starts the abuse. We know more than half of all students report being cyber bullied at one time or another. The use of cell phones and social media as a means to bully others has become more and more prevalent. More than half of those bullied do not tell their parents or school officials when it occurs. For many educators, reports of cyber bullying are harder to discipline then physical bullying, and unfortunately, the results can be catastrophic.
Take the case of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old girl from Massachusetts. Phoebe was relentlessly bullied via text, e-mails, instant messages and online postings. People would knock books out of her hands and verbally and physically abuse her at school. As she was walking home from school on Jan. 14, 2010, someone threw a soft drink can at her from a passing car. Following that incident, she killed herself. After her death, someone posted "mission accomplished" on her Facebook page. The abuse she was experiencing was well-known to teachers and students alike but they all said they did not know how to help her. Nine of her classmates were charged in her death.
Or, consider 12-year-old Miranda Whitaker who alleged that a popular 16-year-old football player had raped her. She was taunted and called names by her peers and was forced to be around her accuser by her teachers. In January 2001 she took her own life. In the note she left behind she said she could no longer take the taunting by her classmates and the harassment from her teachers and other students.
Episodes of violence in schools are strongly linked to physical and emotional abuse both at home and at school. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, had been taunted and ridiculed at school repeatedly. Initially the school officials denied and minimized these claims but after became clear that it was true, the school revised its position and its policies about bullying.
As tragic as these events are, there are resources available to help parents, educators, and students deal with this. Below is a list of websites that contain information to help counteract the effects of cyber bullying. An excellent starting-point resource can be found at www.ncpc.org - Cyberbullying PDF
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National Crime Prevention Council website - This site contains cyberbullying and Internet safety information for parents.
Wired Safety provides Internet safety information for children, teens, and adults. The website also has an important resource for parents—a downloadable translator for cyber-lingo and acronyms used by teens.
Provides relevant cyberbullying prevention and Internet safety information for parents, teachers, and police officers, as well as children and youth.
Includes information for adults regarding cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying. The site also offers information for children ages 10 to 12 regarding bullying.
- Policy Makers PDF
This site from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) provides guidance about helping protect children online
Common Sense Media describes itself as “Parenting, Media and Everything in Between”