Cyberbullying is a problem for tens of thousands of children. In the past, students bullied at school were able to leave campus after school and head back to the safety of home. Today, though, students can be cyberbullied 24/7, giving victims no respite from the abuse.
Cyberbullying can happen on a variety of platforms. The most popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- According to the 2017 Annual Bullying Survey from Ditch The Label, 42% of Instagram users have experienced cyberbullying.
- Enough is Enough, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting child dignity in a digital world reports that 39% of Facebook users and 22% of Twitter users have reported being cyberbullied.
- Additionally, gaming sites have become a hotbed of cyberbullying activity. Stopbullying.gov reports that sites like Discord allow gamers to video chat with other gamers. Poor performance in a game can lead to ridicule and profanity from one player to another.
Other forms of cyberbullying happen through text messages and instant messaging. This method can be very prevalent with teenagers who have their own phones.
How Bullying Affects Students
There are several behavioral changes in a child that may indicate that they are being cyberbullied.
1. Social Avoidance
While cyberbullying is actively occurring, bullied students might withdraw from in-person events or situations like parties, sports games, and school events. These events are often ones that typically have brought the student joy in the past. The Annual Ditch The Label survey on bullying indicates that 37% of people develop social anxiety and exhibit social avoidance behaviors as a result of bullying. They do this to avoid their bully as well as other students who might know about the bullying.
2. Marked Increase in Device Use
Students who are cyberbullied might exhibit an increase in device use. Some warning signs might be sneaking devices to their bedroom or bathroom for privacy, staying online for long periods of time, being evasive about their online activity or seeming distracted from the physical world.
3. Marked Decrease in Device Use
Cyberbullied students may also exhibit a drastic and sudden decline in time spent online to avoid seeing personal attacks on social media. Bullied students might refrain from using their phone for texting, staying away from social media sites, and avoiding online gaming forums.
4. School Truancy or Faking An Illness
Victims of cyberbullying want to avoid their tormentors as much as possible. Most cyberbullied kids attend school with their cyberbully. Avoidance of their bully can take the form of skipping class or faking an illness to avoid going to school altogether. Watching individual attendance trends can inform a teacher or administrator that a particular child might be in crisis.
5. Symptoms and Signs of Depression
It is important to watch for signs of depression in kids that include sadness, being withdrawn, quietness, appetite changes, sleep issues, and new anxiety. All stakeholders can watch after students to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and feel connected to others. Educators and parents should communicate with each other when concerns or changes in behavior occur.
About the Author
Dr. David Franklin, Ed.D. is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker and an experienced school administrator, consultant, curriculum designer, and professor of education. Dr. Franklin has presented at education conferences around the world delivering keynotes and breakout sessions and is currently serving as National Education Consultant for Securly.