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Cyberbullying: Strategies to Take Back Your Power

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Everyone wants happiness for his or her child. Yet with the unprecedented rise in cyberbullying, kids are increasingly at risk of cruel and sneaky personal attacks that result in stress, humiliation and even deaths. It's time for students and parents to take their power back.

Cyberbullying, is defined by the Cyberbullying Research Center, as "willful and repeated harm" inflicted through phones and computers. The statistics:

  • 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online.
  • 35 percent of kids have been threatened online.
  • 53 percent of kids admit to having said something mean or hurtful to another person online.
  • 58 percent have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.[1]

I once heard the quote "bullying in school... that's just part of growing up." What does that imply -- that it's OK to be a bully or to be bullied, or that humiliating others is just the way it is? The scars to self-esteem can have lifetime repercussions. "One teenager stated: 'It makes me hurt both physically and mentally. It scares me and takes away all my confidence. It makes me feel sick and worthless.' Victims who experience cyberbullying also reveal they are afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self‐esteem, family problems, academic problems, school violence and delinquent behavior. Finally, cyberbullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts, and there have been a number of examples in the United States where youth who were victimized ended up taking their own lives." [2]

We need a change in culture -- bully prevention programs need to be adopted at all levels: classroom, school, family and community. Being safe is a human right! By creating a culture of caring rather than one of blame, we can all be part of the solution.

Here are 10 ways for students and parents to change the culture and make a real difference:

  1. Student Tips:
  2. Have students create a website with tips for the victims of cyberbullying with good ways to react (like tracking the offensive messages), who to talk to if it feels pretty bleak, and knowing your legal rights. [3]

  3. Share Information:
  4. On the student website have a section where kids can offer questions and comments. "What would you do in this situation..." Even some hints on how to talk to parents can help. Many kids are reluctant to tell their parents for fear of having their internet cut off completely or that their parents will over react and make the situation worse.

  5. Teach It:
  6. Older students can develop a lesson that they teach to the younger kids in their school about cyberbullying. Peer-to-Peer Mentoring rocks!

  7. Evidence Talks:
  8. Develop a way that offensive messages can be forwarded to school authorities anonymously. Most kids want to do the right thing, but do not want to end up being the next cyber-victim.

  9. Go Team!:
  10. Students can create a Cyberbullying Prevention Team at their school and look over the school's policy to see if it has any clause about cyberbullying. If not, they can bring this to light. Some schools say that the cyber bullying happens off school property so they are not responsible. It's time for everyone to work together -- students, schools, parents and communities -- so kids don't have to live in stress and fear.

  11. Bystander Power:
  12. Have students get together in school to create a "Bystander Pledge." Dr. Phil's pledge states: "I acknowledge that whether I am being a bullying/cyberbullying bully or see someone being bullied/cyber bullied, if I don't report or stop the bullying/cyberbullying, I am just as guilty."[4]

    For this to work, the school faculty must have an effective policy and process in place to help the victim, the bully and create a safe culture. In this case, it does take a village... [5]

  13. Strength in Numbers:
  14. A bully wants to be popular and well-regarded. If bullies are greeted by numbers of their peers with, "Hey, that's not right," then the motivation to do the bullying behavior can be severely cut. Make your school culture one that does not support bullying.

  15. Press Release:
  16. Have students write a news release for local newspapers, informing the community about what your class or school is doing for cyberbullying prevention. Give the news release to your district office for approval and distribution.

  17. Parents, Work Together:
  18. Where you can offer one another positive suggestions and best practices. It's natural to be livid, but as Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Certain strategies, like empowering your children (identifying and enhancing talents, making friends outside of school, role playing, martial arts to feel stronger, looking at the bully as wounded etc.) all help. Working together with the school to support a more positive culture and modeling positive character traits (tolerance, personal responsibility, kindness) at home are also great.

  19. Remind Kids You Are There:

According to Dr. Vicki Panaccione and PACER's National Center for Bullying Prevention, "Over half of all kids have been bullied, and cyber bullying in particular can happen over and over before a parent is aware of it. As parents, we need to remind our teens over and over that we are to help them with bad situations," says Dr. Vicki. "It's crucial to let our teens know that a situation is never hopeless."

Parents can help teens through:

  • Making good decisions in their treatment of peers
  • Standing up for what they believe in when around others who treat peers poorly
  • Emphasizing that they never have to "just take it" if they are being harassed in any way
  • Feeling good about who they are and loving themselves
  • Letting them know that you always "have their back"
  • Value and love everything about them. [6]

Every voice counts. What are your thoughts?

Sources:
[1] http://www.isafe.org
[2] http://www.cyberbullying.us
[3] http://www.cyberbullying.us/Bullying_and_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf
[4] http://www.drphil.com/shows/page/students/
[5] http://www.drphil.com/shows/page/facultypledge/
[6] http://www.pacerteensagainstbullying.org/

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