“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me”
Unfortunately, this age-old adage is no longer true – and in fact one of the most harmful scenarios these days is cyberbullying and trolling.
The increase in social media channels and internet use, coupled with the sheer amount of time spent online, are both huge factors in the advent of cyberbullying. Screen time has increased dramatically since the covid-19 pandemic hit, with kids aged 8- 10-years-old spending around 6 hours a day online, and kids aged 11- 14-years-old spending around 9 hours a day online.
Kids are also accessing the internet at a younger age – even if they don’t own a device themselves, many parents let their kids dabble on their own tablets or smartphones.
As a result, cyberbullying is also beginning at a younger age – and even scarier, research has shown that the effects of bullying can still be seen over four decades later.
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone using social networking sites. Harassment via social media is causing huge amounts of stress, anxiety and mental health issues, especially amongst teenagers.
Your child may enjoy the benefits of social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram etc. They may be using these sites to make new friends, post photos, and stay up-to-date with social trends.
But these platforms are the easiest places for cyberbullying to take place. More often than not, parents have no idea what kind of content their child is being exposed to, or who their child has connected with on social media.
Bullies take advantage of this: they can set up fake accounts to hide their identity, and then they attack by making insensitive, hurtful and insulting comments on other people’s pictures and posts. When cyberbullies don’t use their real identities, it becomes easy for them to target anyone as they know they’re unlikely to be caught and held accountable. This adds to the victim’s feelings of helplessness.
According to DoSomething.org, a US-based non-profit fighting for social change, “4 out of 5 students (81%) say they would be more likely to intervene in instances of cyberbullying if they could do it anonymously.” It’s a sad irony that cyberbullies thrive on anonymity – and their would-be opponents would prefer the shield of anonymity before they act. There’s a fear around intervening and standing up to the bullies – but this is exactly what needs to happen in order for us to nip bullying in the bud.
What is International Stand Up To Bullying Day?
International Stand Up to Bullying Day is a semi-annual event to raise public awareness around bullying in all its forms. The event takes place in schools, workplaces, and organizations in 25 countries around the globe on the third Friday of November to coincide with Anti-Bullying Week, and then again on the last Friday of February.
Supporters of Stand Up To Bullying Day wear pink shirts, an initiative started in 2007 by Travis Price and David Shepherd, two Nova Scotian students who took a stand for a fellow student who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.
When International Stand Up to Bullying Day first burst onto the scene, the main focus was bullying within schools. But over the last decade and a half, as cyberbullying has increased exponentially, the need to stand up to bullying in all its forms has become even more prevalent.
How Can We Stand up to Cyberbullying?
Opening up the conversations around what is acceptable or unacceptable to post on social media is the first step. Body-shaming, revenge porn, hurtful comments, embarrassing photos – don’t do to someone what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.
Parents, teachers, schools, universities and other educational institutions have a responsibility to try to stamp out bullying in all its forms. Organizations such as the Anti-Bullying Alliance offer resources and tools to implement anti-bullying programs.
Don’t Be a Bystander
For every generation: If you or someone you know has been a victim of bullying, cyber or otherwise – or you are aware of someone doing the bullying – it’s important to speak up. There are ways to do this tactfully, in order for the situation not to escalate – but standing by and doing nothing is not an option.
Do not encourage bullying and do not participate in it. Instead, try and find ways to support the victim.
Parents, teachers, guardians, social workers, friends – encourage your kids to find someone who they feel comfortable speaking with. Cyberbullying can also easily happen amongst adults as well – it’s something to be aware of at any age.
Provide Tools to Cope
As a parent, you need to give your kid the tools to cope with cyberbullying. We need to give youngsters the confidence to disclose any worries they may have, keep the lines of communication open, and provide kids with an understanding of their own self-worth.
When it comes to cyberbullying in particular, a parental control app is a great tool to help families combat cyberbullying together. An app such as FamilyKeeper is designed to pre-empt and prevent cyberbullying by offering parents alerts when incendiary keywords are used, and notifying parents about specific websites and social media behaviors.
This International Stand Up To Bullying Day, let’s try to increase awareness surrounding bullying and cyberbullying in any form, and take active steps to prevent it from happening.