I read some alarming statistics today:
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening email or other messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
- 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Lessons in Montessori Grace and Courtesy: What is Cyber Bullying?“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As a kid, I was often teased about my Polish last name. My dad told me that the only way to get peers to stop teasing me was to know better “Polish” jokes than they did. That worked in elementary school. But when I reached middle school, my family moved to a new state. I was in seventh grade and I didn't fit in to my new environment. My accent was different, my haircut wasn't like every other girl’s, my clothes weren't right. To top that off, I was smart, shy, and naive. Several boys started bullying me, making terrible, sexually-suggestive comments and suggestions in the halls and even in class.
I spent my lunch time in the library rather than face them in the student cafeteria. For months this went on because I was too ashamed to tell my parents. The breaking point came when one of the boys pulled a knife on me in the hallway. I broke down and told my father who immediately went to the principal. I expect that if this happened today, the boy would be suspended. I believe he was only “talked to” at that time. It took years to rebuild my self-esteem and I was never comfortable being near those boys and their friends.
My point is words do hurt. At the extreme, some children have committed suicide over being targeted by cyber bullies. At the very least, this kind of behavior is affecting the targeted child’s emotional state, and ability to function comfortably in social environments. As well, some youth are being charged with trafficking child pornography and having to register as sex offenders due to explicit pictures of themselves or classmates being sent online or through what is being dubbed “sexting”.
In this ever-changing world of technology, the fastest growing problems associated with cyber bullying are:
- Stealing someone’s name and password to a social networking site and using their profile to post inappropriate messages or pictures.
- Altering pictures of others using photo editing software and posting them with the intent to humiliate.
- Secretly recording conversations and posting the calls online for others to hear.
- Creating polls online for others to vote for the ugliest/dumbest/fattest kid in school.
- Using personal websites, social networking sites, and blogs to post humiliating, hurtful, and embarrassing information or rumors about others.
- Never assume that an email or text is private. People will share information that is intended only for them. (Remember how hurtful it is when a friend tells your “secret”?)
- Once something is in cyberspace, it never goes away, even if you delete it! What you do and say now can be found years from now by parents, friends, teachers, and even prospective employers.
- Don’t give in to peer pressure. If something makes you uncomfortable, even online, don’t do it.
- Consider the recipient’s reaction. How is this message or picture going to make them feel? Would you like to feel that way?
- Nothing is ever truly anonymous. With today’s technology, people can be found using only a screen name or email address.