The 16GB Bully: Cyberbullying Among Children

I have been working my bootylicious ass off for the past ten or so years, and I have always somehow successfully managed to keep my emotions detached from work.  Once I step into my office, I leave my heart at the door- and just come back for it when it’s time to go home.

In this one international school I worked for a few years back though, I couldn’t help but feel for this one middle schooler.  My heart nearly bled for her.  As I was dutifully shushing kids from my high and mighty librarian’s desk, I almost passed her off as another trainer-bra-wearing seventh-grader happily typing away on one of the library computers.  And then, I noticed that she was just staring at the computer monitor a bit longer than usual.  Turns out, she has been getting some nasty messages on her Facebook wall, calling her the N-word.

Such is one case of cyberbullying.  Kids are becoming more brazen at hurling insults at each other through emails, social networking sites, instant messaging and texts.  They use the accessibility of technology as a cloak of anonymity in harassing others.

When you scratch beneath the surface, you begin to realize that this isn’t a problem to be brushed off lightly.  Sure, we are aware of how distressing it is to be a victim of schoolyard bullying, but cyberbullying seems to be an even more damaging menace.  A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that victims of cyberbullying feel more depressed and isolated than victims of traditional bullying.  They feel helpless at the time of attack.

Signs

A victim of cyberbullying may manifest signs which include sudden changes in how they perceive or use technology.  They may appear stressed or extremely anxious when receiving emails, texts or instant messages.  You may notice that they may prefer to not use these forms of technology at all.

When it comes to interpersonal relations, you may notice that the cyberbullying victim tends to withdraw from family and friends.  His grades may plummet and he may choose not to join school activities.

Stopping it

Experts say that it is highly important to tell victims of cyberbullying that what’s happening isn’t their fault.  Be sure to tell them not to fight back or confront the attacker, because the situation could only get worse.

Tell the kid not to be afraid to report the problem to school authorities.  Administrators should then take the necessary measures to help alleviate this problem.  It helps to save and print out evidence of cyberbullying.

As a parent, it would help a great deal to keep the lines of communication open between you and your kids.  This way, they will feel comfortable confiding in you, and you will then feel more in control of the situation.

Take simple steps such as showing your kids how to block the bully’s number from his cellphone.  Blacklist the bully on the social networking sites, etc.

More than anything, we should take our children’s problems seriously and act right away.  It’s time to grab the bully by the horns, so to speak.