The childhood bullying that once tormented kids at school is now following them home via social media and the internet. For many people growing up, being teased was almost a rite of passage—something we all experienced at some point in our lives. It never felt good and, in some cases, this teasing turned more serious and became bullying. Fortunately, more and more schools are taking a no-tolerance policy on bullying, but there cannot be constant 24-hour supervision at school.
Compounding this problem is the vast and constant connectivity that the internet and social media provide. So the bullying is not stopping at school but instead following children home and actually magnifying. The internet enables a more public and group-like bullying.
Research shows that 34% of students have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetime and 17% within the past 30 days. Looking at it further, four of five of the students said the bullying came in the form of mean comments being posted about them, while 70% said that rumors were spread about them online. What’s even more alarming, two thirds of these cyberbullying victims said the experience affected their ability to learn or feel safe at school.
This issue struck home with me while I was conducting an online contest for my online retail company UsTrendy. We asked customers to post photos of themselves on social media in their clothing items from our site. Immediately, we noticed a lot of negative comments and cyberbullying being done at an alarming rate. This experience prompted me to launch a nonprofit called Believe in Yourself in January 2017 to combat cyberbullying and empower young women to develop a positive self-image. This group sets up events in various cities and brings experts in to speak with them about cyberbullying.
Kids who are experiencing or witnessing cyberbullying need to know how to respond. Listed below are several strategies that parents can adopt to help their kids:
- Try to have your child ignore all bullying. Often, a response can lead to more bullying so it’s best to not respond.
- Be aware that kids often internalize the bullying or “cycle” it by repeatedly looking at it. It’s human nature to sometimes look at things repeatedly, and if your child repeatedly looks at the negative comments or posts about him or her online, it can become imprinted on their minds. So if possible delete any harassing comments and block the bully online.
- Save a record of all the bullying. Take a screenshot of the cyberbullying and save it. It is always a good idea to have documentation of all the bullying in the event you and your child want to involve the school or other authorities.
- Have your child take a break from social media. Have them put down their phone or get off their computer and do something not related to electronics. It can be a freeing experience to explore other activities and take a break from being online.
- Encourage your child to explore new hobbies, such as sports, a musical instrument or any other activity, which limits their free time to spend on social media.
- Encourage them to stand up for their peers. Have a proactive conversation with your child about bullying. Encourage your child to have their peers’ backs. If your child sees cyberbullying, he or she needs to denounce it publicly. Bullies are looking for others to join in. If they don’t receive positive reinforcement, they often will stop.
- Encourage your child to start a different trend by being positive toward others publicly on social media. For instance, have your child make positive comments on their peers’ social media posts daily.
Believe in Yourself is embarking on a new project, which will consist of streaming online talks by mentors that will be posted on www.believeinyourself.org for public viewing along with online interactive forums and discussions where kids and parents can interact in a live forum with experts and mentors on the issue.
Sam Sisakhti is founder and CEO of UsTrendy, a fashion marketplace that helps fashion designers break down barriers created by the industry’s elite. He is also the founder and director of Believe in Yourself, a nonprofit that gives away dresses to underprivileged girls for school dances, proms, and homecomings, and speaks out against cyberbullying and body-shaming.