In between the videos of kitty playing piano and pictures of grandma blowing out candles on her 90th birthday resides the darker side of social media; a place hiding in plain sight that is filled with gruesomeness, brutality, bullying and malicious intent. A place where privacy is non-existent, a tweet can get you killed, and terrorists lurk to attain new recruits.
Classroom Teasing Goes Viral
I remember being a high school freshman in an all-boys Catholic school in the 80s. I was a tiny, skinny, little kid that found himself pushed to the ground at times by the usual suspects of classroom bullies. Lucky for me, I was one of the quickest kids in school too and running was a better alternative to kissing a sidewalk. Surely there were moments when I wasn’t quick enough and found my pants pull down from behind, or a “Kick Me” note on my back. Embarrassing moments for sure with all my classmates laughing or my teacher standing in front of me, but, luckily, I was able to shake it off and move on. Unfortunately, many kids aren’t able to move past the humiliation and, as a result find themselves depressed with low self-esteem, failing grades and not many friends.
Grim statistics show that not only has occurrences of bullying increased in recent years, but in many cases today, the reach of the bully extends far beyond school yards. In our new digital world, cyberbullying is the latest way for bullies to hurt kids with maximum impact. Now bullies not only say and do hurtful things to our kids in person, but they share these insults, humiliating pictures and videos on Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, through e-mail and other social media outlets, magnifying them to immeasurable levels. Some bullies have gone so far as to creating websites dedicated to mocking other kids. It is an outlet that makes bullies feel powerful and in control. Cyberbullying targets a child’s life and social image. My incident of having my pants pulled down in front of 25 other kids would be looping on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Vine, possibly receiving thousands of views and shares. I can’t even imagine.
According to Cyberbullying Statistics:
- Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber-threats online.
- Over 25% of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, in a survey of 2,000 middle-school children from across the nation:
- 20% of respondents thought seriously about suicide
- 19% reported having attempted suicide
- Cyberbullying victims were 1.9 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-victims
Some of the Victims
- Matthew Burdette, 14, a student in San Diego took his own life after a student filmed him in the school bathroom stall. The film was posted on Vine and Snapchat.
- Jessica Laney, a 16-year-old from Pasco County, Florida, hanged herself after being bullied about her weight onfm.
- After being blackmailed on Skype, Daniel Perry, a 17-year-old from Scotland, jumped to his death from a local bridge. Daniel was harassed often on hisfm page, with commenters telling him to kill himself and that he should cut his throat. He was then tricked into Skyping with someone he was told was a girl his own age and then blackmailed him with screenshots by anonymous users.
- Viviana Aguirre, 14, of El Paso took her own life after countless bullying incidents on Facebook. Some of the messages suggested Viviana kill herself and even recommended ways she could do it.
Unfortunately, there are so many more examples of this. Now, personally, 30+ years ago when I was in high school I never heard ANY kid tell another kid they should kill themselves. This is very disturbing, not only that it’s happening, but that these calls for suicide are not just coming from individual bullies, but groups of them at once.
Suspect that your child is being cyberbullied? Here are some warning signs according to stopbullying.gov. Kids who are being bullied tend to:
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Skip school
- Experience in-person bullying
- Be unwilling to attend school
- Receive poor grades
- Have lower self-esteem
- Have more health problems
Communication is key when it comes to cyberbullying. It’s not only important to discuss daily with kids on how their day went at school, but it is equally important to discuss what they should do if they are bullied and advise them not to bully others. Also alert the school principle if your child reports any bullying incident to you. Some parents choose to monitor their child’s activities online and require their passwords to social media sites so they can view activity. Statistics show that 65% of children go online unsupervised!
The other unfortunate aspect of cyberbullying is that it is not only targeted to kids. There are many instances of adult cyberbullying as well. According to PEW research, 40% of adults have been victims of online bullying. Some of these stats include public figures and celebrities as well. During her TED talks, former presidential intern Monica Lewinsky was quoted as saying, “The more shame, the more clicks and the more clicks the more advertising dollars. We are making money off the back of suffering.” On April 3, 2015, Kevin Bollaert was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison for his ‘revenge porn’ website. Bollaert posted over 10,000 nude photos of women sent in by ex-lovers and then charged the victims money to remove the photos.
You can report cyberbullying at www.stopbullying.gov or
http://www.endcyberbullying .com and also take these steps immediately:
- Don’t respond to and don’t forward cyberbullying messages.
- Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages.
- Block the person who is cyberbullying.
Stay tuned for more articles to come on cyberbullying as well as other topics from The Dark Side of Social Media.
Bio: Kevin McGuire is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. Look for his his latest articles and insight on how social media is impacting our world at http://www.SocialMediaAtoZ.com -coming soon!