Ashley Beeman's Sample Writing

Cyberbullying: Your Problem or Everyone’s Problem?

By: Ashley Beeman

“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.” – Andrew Vachss

Many of today’s youth have a growing problem. It is a silent problem. It isn’t always physically devastating, but it is emotionally shattering. Bullying is a problem that has plagued students for decades, but recently a new type of bullying has surfaced—cyberbullying.

The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that in 2011 approximately 9% of students in grades 6-12 experienced cyberbullying. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, in 2013, found that 15% of high school students were cyberbullied in the past year. Studies show that this number is constantly increasing due to technology changing so rapidly.

According to www.stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place using electronic technology…including devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers and tablets, as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat and websites.”

This is different than traditional bullying. Traditional bullying mostly involves some sort of face to face interaction and, while it is also emotionally overwhelming, there are instances where it can also be taken to a physical level with punching, shoving, tripping, etc. Cyberbullying allows the bully to insult or degrade a person without ever showing their face. Many times these actions are anonymous and are hard, if not impossible, to trace back to the tormenter. 

The effects of cyberbullying on the victim can be short term, such as skipping school or receiving lower grades, to long term, such as low self-esteem, use of drugs and alcohol, other health problems or suicidal thoughts and actions. Studies also find that most students who are cyberbullied are also bullied in person. Cyberbullying can result in fines, legal action and even jail time for the aggressor.

So, how do we solve this growing problem in our youth’s lives? Be aware! Teachers and parents both need to be aware of what kids are doing online at all times. Many schools have implemented online policies that the students must follow in order to have access to the internet while at school. The rules are in place to help keep students safe and to create an environment that isn’t disruptive to the learning taking place. In some states, the schools are “required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy and some may go as far to have policies on what to do if you are bullied off-campus” (stopbullying.gov).

“But Teachers are not the only ones who should take responsibility for teaching about appropriate internet usage, parents should as well,” said Sibyl Dougherty, who is not only a paraprofessional in a Texas school district, but a mother of four children.

Parents need access to their children’s accounts and should be friends on these accounts in order to keep an eye on what is happening. “Parents need to take a more active role in the monitoring of their children’s activities while on the internet. They should especially pay close attention to the social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and what their child is doing while on these sites. All parents should have access to their children’s accounts to closely monitor that their child is not involved in any cyberbullying.”

But children should know that this is not an invasion of privacy and that the parents don’t want to just “stalk” their activities. The parents should let their child know that they will only use this information to login if they feel there is a need to be concerned about their activity. Youth today need to be taught what is appropriate to share online and what is not, such as personal information or pictures that might hurt themselves or others. By establishing and following internet safety rules, parents and children should feel confident that what they are doing on the internet is appropriate.

Today’s youth also needs to be not only be aware of the consequences of cyberbullying, but how to report it to the appropriate person if it is happening to them. Children need to understand that being bullied is not their fault. They need to let someone know if it is happening to them. They can’t make it stop on their own. The website, www.stopbullying.gov, has an extensive list of the types of cyberbullying and who it should be reported to. Some instances should be reported to a parent, such as just mean comments, others should be reported to the online service providers, such as harassment from a user that has not stopped after being asked to, and some may need to be reported to the local law enforcement if it is something that includes violence or threats, child pornography, hate crimes, or stalking

“For too long, our society has shrugged off bullying by labeling it a ‘rite of passage’ and by asking students to simply ‘get over it.’ Those attitudes need to change. Every day, students are bullied into silence and are afraid to speak up. Let’s break this silence and end school bullying,” stated Linda Sanchez. 

Teachers and parents must work together to educate the young people that their actions today can have lasting effects for tomorrow and the future.