That’s me. Circa 1982. I was a sophomore at McCutcheon High School.
Some people loved high school. Me? Not so much. I was a decent student, graduated in the top 10% of my class and was awarded a half-tuition scholarship to Butler University. I was voted “Friendliest Girl” my senior year. My athletic prowess was virtually non-existent, so instead of playing volleyball (which I loved), I served as team manager. I was a member of the show choir and Honor Society. On paper, it seemed like I was doing okay. But, when I looked in the mirror, I saw an awkward, freakishly tall girl with curly, often frizzy hair who felt totally unsure of herself and uncomfortable in her own skin. It’s no wonder I went on maybe a total of five dates during my entire high school life. Needless to say, I was thrilled to graduate, put that part of my life behind me and move on to college.
Growing up is tough for everyone. All kids face their share of insecurities and challenges as they gain life experience and evolve into adulthood. Back in my day (… excuse me while I insert my dentures as I type that phrase… jeez), there were certainly kids who were mean to others, and there were also kids who felt singled-out and bullied. However, we didn’t face the intense pressures that technology places on kids today. Cyberbullying was a term that didn’t even exist. Times have certainly changed.
Cyberbullying is essentially picking on, making fun of or targeting another with the intent to embarrass or humiliate them using technology such as the Internet, cell phones or other digital means. A 2011 survey found that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were cyberbullied in the previous school year, while other data suggest that nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. The huge deal with cyberbullying is that it’s virtual… it can happen 24×7, not just when kids are at school. The other problem is that it becomes viral… the span of cyberbullying is as vast via the Internet, which makes it exponentially more difficult for targeted kids to endure.
I’m a child forensic interviewer and assist in the investigation of cases of alleged child abuse or neglect. I was recently talking with a young lady who, among other things, found herself being cyberbullied. It broke my heart. Sitting before me was an incredibly talented, uber-smart, beautiful, active high school student who, like so many others, fell prey to sending inappropriate photos of herself to some guy. Now, there are all sorts of rumors about her, what she did or didn’t do, that she is having to face head-on and live through. That interview threw me back in time 30 years. I couldn’t help but recall how challenging I believed my time in high school to be, but to add the challenge she is now facing only compounds the difficulty that, frankly, most teens experience during those formative years.
Cyberbullied kids have to endure a lot of tough stuff, including:
- Experiencing in-person bullying
- Skipping school to avoid bullying
- Struggling in school and receiving poor grades
- Inflicting self-harm (such as cutting or burning)
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Feeling of sense of low self-worth or esteem
So, what should you do if you know a child is being cyberbullied?
As with all other aspects of your child’s life, it’s important to keep lines of communication open and know what your child is doing online. Encourage your child to tell you immediately if he is ever a victim of cyberbullying so that you can address the issue before it balloons.
As with other technology use, I recommend doing 5 pretty simple things to help protect your kids from Cyberbullying online:
1) Keep computers in a “public” area.
2) No phone is their own.
3) Try using social media for yourself.
4) Check out “expert” social media sites that offer easy-to-understand guidance such as Your Sphere or Webwise.
5) Install monitoring software that allows you to stay in-touch with your kid’s online activity.
For additional information about these tips, see my blog “4UrKids: Do You Know Where Your Child Is Online?”
There are some terrific websites that address more issues related to cyberbullying. I invite you to visit StopBullying.gov and DoSomething.org. Growing up is hard enough. Don’t allow cyberbullying make your child’s life even tougher.
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger is also an avid animal lover who is blessed with two loving pets: Lexi and Chance. Along with Ginger’s husband John, this small family resides in a quaint community Northwest of Indianapolis. Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.