Teenage,Girl,Being,Bullied,By,Text,Message

Everything You Need to Know About Cyberbullying

It is Mental Health Awareness month, so we thought it timely to visit one of the complex mental health issues that many students face in the modern classroom (even though it doesn’t take place in the classroom). The absence from the classroom has driven increased engagement on social media platforms and, with it, an increase in cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying Isn’t Going Anywhere

Face-to-face bullying remains a severe problem in the classroom. Still, with the advancement of technology and the prevalence of social media, cyberbullying has become a genuine threat to our youth. As a result, schools are seeing increased aggression, leading to more bullying and student fighting. 


Exposure to cyberbullying is associated with psychological distress like depressive symptoms, self-injurious behaviour, and suicidal thoughts. 19% of students report being bullied on school property, while 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online.¹ Whether they are being bullied in school or online, the victim must understand that educators can be facilitators to address the issue and work towards a resolution.

Reasons Behind Cyberbullying

The motivation behind being a cyberbully differs from person to person, but these are a few of the reasons it might be happening:
  1. Anonymity: When behind a screen, there is some anonymity, giving kids a false sense of security. They cyberbully others, believing they won’t get caught.
  2. Learned behaviour: If a child has been bullied, they may mimic that same behaviour against others and feel justified in doing so.
  3. Frustration: When someone is frustrated with themselves or their circumstances, they may lash out at other people.
  4. Power hungry: Bullying may be rewarding because the bully feels superior, gets what they want, and sometimes others join in, making the bully more popular.
  5. Boredom: It might be as simple as a kid being bored and wanting to add some entertainment, excitement, and drama to their lives.
  6. Attention seeking: A child may not be getting enough attention elsewhere, so they resort to cyberbullying as an outlet for getting attention.

Signs of Cyberbullying

Anyone with access to the internet can be a victim of cyberbullying. Up to 58% of kids who have been cyberbullied will not tell their parents or report it to the school system, so it can be challenging to detect. However, if you suspect a student is being cyberbullied, there are warning signs you can look for. All the signs listed below are red flags, and none of them should be taken lightly: 

 

  • Trepidation or nervousness about going to school.
  • Jumpy or scared when using social media.
  • Unexplained health problems like weight gain or loss, headaches, stomach aches, or trouble eating.
  • Problems with sleeping.
  • Loss of interest in favourite activities, hobbies, or sports.
  • Makes passing comments about self-injury or suicide. 

How You Can Help

It can be challenging for teachers to step in and help because cyberbullying events do not occur on school grounds. Fortunately, there are ways you can help. Educators can assist students by developing coping strategies, encouraging them to talk about it to get a better perspective, and building peer groups in the school so students don’t feel isolated (because unbeknownst to them, it’s happening to many students).

Combat Cyberbullying in the Classroom (in-person and online)

  1. Educate your students: Make the topic of bullying an open discussion so that students do not feel isolated. As you talk about it, expectations are also set for improved behaviour for everyone involved in the discussion. 
  2. Establish firm policies: Set standards for your students early on, so they and their parents know what is expected of them and the consequences they will face if they do not abide by the measures that have been set. Further, notify your students that bullying will result in legal consequences in most jurisdictions.
  3. Encourage students to report it: Help your students understand the importance of reporting any bullying behaviour they witness. If students do not report bullying behaviour, the victim will continue to suffer. The educator may see that something is wrong, but without the proper information, it is difficult to support the student in a meaningful way.
  4. Involve parents: The goal is to have everyone behave properly and politely. However, if you cannot stop the bullying behaviour, it is your responsibility to involve the parents of both the bully and the victim, and potentially the police. Student safety is a top priority. 

Use Your Parent Network to Support Anti-Cyberbullying

Parents have a role to play in teaching their children about what cyberbullying looks like and what to do if it does happen. Educators may reach out to their parent network and give them the tools for how to approach cyberbullying.

How Parents Can Help

  • Become educated about what cyberbullying looks like.
  • Set time and usage limits for children to engage with social media.
  • Set parental controls to monitor what is going on behind the scenes.
  • Spend time with the child online to remain current on what’s happening.
  • Be careful with live streaming platforms because it is impossible to know who you are talking to.
  • Never give out personal information.
  • Be their support system. 

The Future Can Be Brighter

Remember, mental health is transitory. It depends on today’s circumstances and, to some extent, the future. But on a look-forward basis, the future can always be better, and by making cyberbullying part of the conversation, we can speed up that process. As long as social media remains, cyberbullying will be a lingering problem that needs to be addressed consistently and continually. 

 

A multi-prong approach is needed. Each student is unique, based on their personality and current life circumstances. Practice active listening and let your students verbalize what they are feeling—listening has an immense impact on building trust and showing them what they have to say is important and that you care.  

 

To learn more on this topic, see the following reference materials we used in creating this article:  

  1. 11 Facts About Cyberbullying: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying
  2. Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.ca/

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