Cyberbullying On the Rise

The latest federal school safety report provides little solace to parents concerned about cyberbullying. According to an article in Education Week, findings from U.S. Department of Education research from the 2017-18 national survey on school safety show that cyberbullying is on the rise. “About 33% of middle and high-schools deal with cyberbullying at least once a week to daily.” That’s an increase from 25% for the 2016-17 school year. Even elementary schools saw a small increase from 4.2% to 4.5%.

This study did not identify commonly used cyberbullying platforms, but a recent study in the UK found that the popular social media site Instagram is the platform of choice for cyberbullies.

These new stats came as a surprise to at least one former principal in Fairbanks, AK—but not because they were high. Instead Jethro Jones was surprised they weren’t higher, particularly for middle-schoolers: “Kids in middle school especially aren’t mentally developed enough to make good choices online so they consistently make bad choices online., said Jones. “They are so drama-filled and reactionary, they don’t know how to stop and think before they post something …”

What Can Be Done

ConnectSafely, a nonprofit organization that educates tech users about safety, privacy, and security offers these suggestions for kids who find themselves victims of cyberbullies:

  • Know that it’s not your fault
  • Don’t respond or retaliate
  • Save the evidence
  • Tell the person to stop—but only if you feel comfortable doing that
  • Reach out to someone you trust (friend, relative, school personnel) for help
  • Use available tech tools that allow you to block a particular person
  • Protect your accounts
  • Take action if someone you know is being bullied

The organization offers suggestions for parents too, including:

  • Be thankful your child asks for help, as most don’t tell parents about bullying in any form
  • Work with your child, which will help him maintain a sense of control over the situation. “This is about your child’s life, so your child needs to be part of the solution”
  • Respond thoughtfully, not fast. A rash move on your part may magnify the problem for your child
  • More than one perspective may be needed
  • Really listen to your child. This is what victims say helps most
  • The goal is to restore your child’s self-respect. Put your energy into that rather than focus on getting someone punished

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