By: Amanda Fox
Bullying has, according to some analysts, reached epidemic proportions. It’s hard to argue against this as we see more and more cases of teen suicides that stemmed from bullying than ever before. Perhaps it is that they are being reported more often, or it is possible that it has grown to become a bigger problem than ever before as well. One inescapable fact in all of this is that for the person being bullied and the bully them self, there is absolutely nothing positive that comes from any of it.
Most adults over thirty tend to think of bullying as a schoolyard problem, but the fact is that bullying continues on well into the adult years. Often, the sad fact is, once a bully, always a bully. The flipside to that, however, is that just because you were once a victim doesn’t mean you always have to be a victim. You have the ability to stop bullying as it pertains to you and your children. It often isn’t easy, but it is a necessity.
Let’s start getting serious by looking at some statistics regarding bullying that should serve as a wakeup call for anyone that hasn’t grasped how prevalent it is in both the physical realm and online. (Statistics are for the US based on 2010)
1. Each month, an estimated 280,000+ students are physically attacked in secondary schools.
2. It is estimated that 15% of all school absences stem from bullying.
3. 90% of all students in the 4th-8th grade report being bullied at least once.
4. 1 in 10 school dropouts reports their reason for quitting school as chronic bullying.
5. Approximately 75% of all school shooting incidents have been linked to bullying.
6. Over 50% of all children under 18 report being cyberbullied at least once.
7. Over 1/3 have received threats of physical harm.
8. It is estimated that less than 20% of cyberbullying incidents are reported
9. The cell phone is the most common tool used in cyberbullying right now.
10. Adults are quickly approaching being responsible for better than 25% of all cyberbullying incidents.
We have spoken to a couple dozen people of varying ages regarding bullying. The common thread seems to be that bullying has gotten far more severe in the last decade than it was before. A big reason that is being cited, is that prior to the Internet being a fixture in most households and so many modes of getting online being easily available, bullying was generally limited to school.
Bullies tended to ply their trade on their victims at school, the school bus or maybe in the neighborhood. Generally speaking (Excluding cases of abuse at home), kids did have a safe haven when they got home. The bullying would stop. There was a little downtime to regroup. With the Internet, the bullying, often, never ends. Kids are victimized at school and then again when they login. The bullying isn’t limited to people they know even. In many cases, people that have never met the victim personally will pile on and heap abuse as well.
Cyberbullying makes it easy. It depersonalizes the experience for the abuser. They think “What do I care? I don’t even know this person and they probably have it coming to them.” To add insult to injury, most social networks, where cyberbullying is most prevalent, do very little to stop the trend. “Hate pages” and fake accounts meant to do nothing but damage the reputation of the intended victim are easy to create and hard to get rid of. The pack mentality takes over and the bullying gets beyond out of control.
The same often holds true in cases of adult cyberbullying, except you can substitute work for school where appropriate. Bullying knows no boundaries. Bullies and their victims come in all shapes and sizes, colors, religions, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, nations, ages, education levels and even the deceased aren’t spared. There are numerous instances where a victim of bullying that has passed away naturally or by suicide, continues to be bullied. It’s seemingly never-ending and insane.
We’re not going to pretend we can end bullying. Bullying will continue from one generation to the next and that is as sad a fact as the statistics cited above. There are, however, measures we can take to help decrease the prevalence of bullying and make bullying, whether cyber or face to face, an action that comes with consequences no bully wants to face. These are the actions we propose.
1. Be aware of what is happening around you. Take notice of any bullying and not only report it to the proper authority, but make others aware as well. Far too many people fail to act out of fear of being bullied them self for taking a stand. Please, do not be an observer.
2. When you see instances of cyberbullying, such as “hate pages” or blatantly false accounts created only to defame a person, report them! Get your friends to report them and tell them to have their friends do it as well. Again, you have to take action!
3. Anytime you see bullying that crosses the line to making physical threats against a person, the first step is to make sure you have screen captures of everything. Next, report it to not only the platform it appeared on, report it to your service provider as well. They are very good at tracing the origin of communications and holding it under seal until/if requested by legal authorities. Finally, report it to legal authorities. It is very easy to go online and Google the appropriate entity to make a report to. Your local police can always direct you in this well. Cyberbullying is a crime that is punishable by both fine and in some instances actual jail time. Reports should begin with the local police, or in some cases to your local magistrate court, should the cyberbullying involve multiple states/nations.
Cyberbullying is a crime
Regarding Cyberbullying, the process of investigation and consequences can be erratic at best. There are literally tens of thousands of cases for cybercrimes divisions to wade through and there are too few people tasked to handle them. Sadly, it is often a matter of knowing someone that is required to get a case fast-tracked. Stopbullying.gov along with several other authorities do provide some steps you can take to decrease the aggravation of cyberbullying once a report has been made.
1. Block the persons involved from having contact with you if it is possible. Bullies love to get together in their secret enclaves to “trash talk” a victim, but what they really seek is the public audience and doing it in front of their victim in most cases. If you are not in the audience, their motivation often wanes over time.
2. Do not friend people on networks that you do not actually know. A common tactic many cyberbullies use is to create fake accounts to try to bully anonymously. This works well enough until they are reported. Very few cyberbullies are good enough to cover their tracks in a manner that cybercrimes dectectives can’t easily uncover.
3. Communication – Let your kids know it is not only okay, but required that they tell you about any instances of bullying. Let them know that it is not their fault they are being bullied and that they have every right to stand up for them self. If you don’t know what is happening, you can’t help.
Bullying, in all of it’s forms, has gone too far. People need to take notice of it and take action against it. It has to be a constant vigil – not just when we hear stories of bullying gone too far where kids kill them self or people become an emotional and physical wreck due to it. Not just when it is someone in our family. Vigilance means you are ALWAYS watching. If you witness bullying and do nothing, you ARE a part of the problem. Don’t be a part of the problem – be a part of the solution.