By Jessica Amezcua
Early this year, surveys showed that of the Top 10 social concerns Chicago parents had for their children, cyberbullying came in second, right after gun violence.
In the age of technology, it is easy for people to hide behind the screen and spread negativity whether they are aware that they are doing it or not. Bullying is a form of harassment, an act of violence or any form with the intention to harm, it is usually directed at an individual or a group.
Cyberbullying, however, is a newer form of bullying that involves the person inflicting harm to others through social media sites and applications, direct messages, and text messages.
“Somewhere between 30 to 40% of adult Americans have experienced some form of online harassment, and for middle school and high school students it’s 36% who have reported to experienced cyberbullying” – Taylor
The Ann and Robert Lurie’s Children’s Hospital and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) conducted a survey in 2017-18 asking parents what their top social concerns we’re for their children, 76% percent of the parents reported that cyberbullying was one of those concerns.
Knowing this information exists it begs the question: what is it about cyberbullying that recently has many parents concerned for their children?
Samuel H. Taylor is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) who has studied on the issues of cyberbullying and explored the possibilities and ways of preventing it from happening.
“The psychological effects with being a victim of cyberbullying is quite extensive,” he said, “to the point where places like the Center of Disease Control are starting to refer to cyberbullying as a public health issue because its associated with basically every negative psychological mental health outcome than you can possibly imagine…”
He said these feelings of depression, mental health issues associated with anxiety, stress, worsening of family relationships, dwindling academic performances were some of the issues and effects the come along with being bullied.
The survey found that part of the reason parents were concerned with cyberbullying has to do with the fact that they are aware of the chances that the bullying could affect their child’s mental health.
When conducting its survey, the CDPH found that there were many different factors that contribute the cyberbullying. According to the statistics, while both girls and boys are equally likely to have a parent concerned with bullying and cyberbullying, it found that girls were most likely to report incidents of cyberbullying happening.
When the race was taken into consideration it was found that 84% of the concerned parents were Latino/a 78% were Non-Latino/a black parents and 64% were non-Latino white parents. In terms of socioeconomic status parents of lower-income households whose children were in public schools were found to have more concerns for cyberbullying with 87% compared to the 77% of parents of higher household income with children in private schools.
Another factor that can contribute to cyberbullying includes both the victim of bullying and the person doing the bullying, is the age of the person.
Hannah Kirkpatrick, a middle school social worker in Chicago, works with adolescence dealing with various kinds of personal social issues, cyberbullying being one of them.
From her experience working with middle schoolers specifically, Kirkpatrick said that is it possible that middle schoolers do experience worse instances of cyberbullying only because of all the new hormones and changes going on, they’re learning about the ways to express themselves. While it can be a behavior they carry on into high school, usually, as the person gets older, they can learn to grow out of those negative behaviors and mature.
“Growing up you would have people create facebook groups [to publicly] attack other people… this generation has gotten smarter, now its through direct messages, where it’s private.”- Kirkpatrick
Taylor also says that cyberbullying is still something that can still be done with adults the difference is that when it’s being done under the age of 18 it is usually seen as cyberbullying however after adulthood it is considered online harassment.
Something that should be taken into consideration is whether social media responsible and should they be doing more all around the response has been yes, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are cracking down at the issue and attempting to relieve the victim of the issue, if something has been commented or sent to message the person is able to flag it, report it and it is then sent in for evaluation, said Taylor.
Storymap of Reports of Cyberbullying:
So what now? What should the next step be to overcome this issue?
Taylor said that flagging it to the administrators of the site and it is reviewed, sometimes its not super effective, because it could take days or even weeks. which flags it to the administrators of the site and then it’s reviewed.
“While this is one of the best options it sometimes might not super effective considering that sometimes it might take might more than a few days sometimes weeks and then at that point it’s no longer clear for removal.”
Other things commenting, calling out the bully or supporting the other person however once you get involved you have put yourself in a situation/ argument. You could also message the victim privately and provide some social support. If this something that you notice something happening at school, you should be able to go and report it.
With the rate at which cyberbullying is happening there is now a call for cyberbullying to be taught in the classrooms.
Parents whose child they suspect is going through an issue with cyberbullying should easy their way into having a conversation with their child, Kirkpatrick said that when you suspect that it is happening the best way to talk about it is through love, empathy, and being supportive of the child’s feelings, when a parent gets worked up its understandable because no person wants to see their children going through the same thing however it can be overwhelming for the child and thus preventing them from speaking up.
“We need to teach more social emotional awareness in school’s, there’s already been a huge start with CPS …. but there needs to be more.” – Kirkpatrick
For other ways to prevent cyberbullying from affecting others, you can visit www.stopbullying.org.