The major increase of preteens exposed to the internet through computers and cellular phones has lead to a rise of cyberbullies and their online victims, creating a digital face for the traditional bullying that occurs within the school premises, suggested a recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia involving 17,000 children aged 8-12.
Cyberbullying among kids is a form of humiliation, intimidation and threat by an aggressive child directed toward another child or preteen through the use of the internet in computers and mobile phones. With more children joining popular social networking sites like Facebook, bullying has been a lot easier to do for many, which has been proven by numerous studies to be detrimental to the psychological development of the victim and likewise linked to depression, school phobia, loss of self-esteem, lowered achievement and worst-case scenario of suicide.
The study from the university revealed that about 25-30% of the youth admitted participating on acts of cyberbullying and being victimized by it, which significantly showed a bigger difference with the 19% who confirmed that they have participated and experienced schoolyard bullying. This showed that children differentiate cyberbullying with that of an actual bullying, indicating an emerging popularity of bullying through the internet.
Various states supplemented additional laws to correspond to the emergence of cyber bullying within the public school system, creating anti-bullying campaigns such as the “STOMP Out Bullying” and “It Gets Better.” There are also many internet websites and resources that address cyberbullying issues, such as “dosomething.org.” Many schools are also organizing anti-bullying events on campus to address the issue. The State of Georgia enacted a cyberbullying law (Bill Number SB 250), part of which states that cyberbullying “relates to prohibited acts of bullying at public schools…by use of electronic data or software access through a computer network or electronic technology of a local school system.”
Teachers and parents need to be wary if a child is exhibiting any symptoms of cyberbullying. Open communication is vital to assess the severity of a child’s situation. Certain measures must be observed to avoid the harmful effects of cyberbullying─ educating a child in advance about cyberbullies, reporting the abuse committed by a bully, and blocking the individual from the child’s account. Although education and community awareness is important, it doesn’t replace a parent’s need for vigilance in monitoring their child’s Online activity. It is essential that parents take the initiative to consult a pediatrician for needed psychological support.