Progress Village Pulls the Plug on Cyberbullying
Progress Village Middle School Magnet students – as young as sixth grade – say they’ve been the target of cyberbullies. Whether it’s on social media, through text messages, or online gaming the words said in the cyber-world can cause very real pain.
“It's hurting children in America and even adults or parents,” one student said.
It’s why Counselor Sharon SeaBrooks wanted to tackle the tough topic and talk with some students during the lunch hour on Thursday.
“We have to take a stand on cyberbullying. They’ve experienced things that many of us as parents never experienced before,” said SeaBrooks.
“In the game, a lot of people, just say bad stuff about you. They’re like ‘kill yourself’ or something like that,” a student said. “I had to delete it. I did not want that anymore. I have reported several people, several times and that app had not done anything about it,” the student said.
Sixth-grader, Rimiyah, said she’s been the victim of cyberbullying on social media. “One day, I was on Facebook and it was like 3 days after my grandma died from pancreatic cancer. From three days, there was like 300 messages saying, ‘Your grandma’s dead. I’m happy. I’m happy.’ I cried for almost 2 hours, because it was really sad,” said Rimiyah.
“I was playing this one game and all these different people, they just started attacking me – not game-wise, like verbally. They were saying all of these rude things about me, so I told them to leave me alone and stop bullying me. It made me feel really bad about myself, and I personally, already have low self-esteem and that just made me feel worse,” said sixth grade student, Samaria.
The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that, nationwide, about 21 percent of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying in 2014-2015.
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that an estimated 16% of high school students were bullied electronically in the 12 months prior to the survey.
Counselor SeaBrooks said she understands the pain that cyberbullying can cause. “Cyberbullying hurts – with passion. I’ve been cyberbullied before as an adult. We need to be careful about what our children are seeing, what are they doing,” SeaBrooks said. “It needs to stop. What are you going to do?”
Sixth grade student, Jaymarie, had this advice, “Treat the people the way you want to be treated.”
Another student said that some kids fear retaliation if they tell an adult about cyberbullying. “They threaten them and say, ‘If you tell, I’ll do this,’ so people are scared of what’s going to happen.”
“I would say, just don’t believe it, because there’s no point,” said Rimiyah.
While all states have criminal laws that apply to bullying, not all have special statutes that apply to cyberbullying or bullying that takes place outside of school.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that parents should watch for warning signs that a child is being bullied:
-Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
-A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
-A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
-Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
-A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
-A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
If you think that a child is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do:
Notice – Recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices.
Talk – Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. You can also contact app or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
Support – Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content posts about a child. Public Intervention can include posting positive comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in a positive direction. It can also help to reach out to the child who is bullying and the target of the bullying to express your concern. If possible, try to determine if more professional support is needed for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
SeaBrooks believes everyone can do their part to help stop cyberbullying. “Regardless of a materialistic cell phone, we should create harmony and understanding amongst all fellow mankind.”
For more information on how to stop cyberbullying: https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html
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