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Social Media and Cyberbullying

Protecting Today’s Teens

When most people think of social media crises, their minds go to big brands or corporations. Negative messages and the viral tendencies of social media have rendered it a powerful online force that companies would be mistaken to ignore, but negativity on social media has an impact on the individual level as well. Cyberbullying has become an increasingly prevalent issue, and with tragic and highly publicized stories of teens taking their own lives, parents and administrators are recognizing the need to predict, prevent, and cope with the bullying students are facing online and through social media.

There is no question that cyberbullying and online harassment are taking a toll on the younger population. One-third of students who were bullied online reported symptoms of depression, and that number rose to almost half for those who were bullied both on and offline.

What Parents Need to Know

Many teens will hesitate to report issues of cyberbullying to a parent because they are worried about losing internet or cell phone privileges. Parents should sit down with children early on to establish a response plan to cyberbullying, i.e. walking away from the chat room/site/etc and immediately notifying an adult without embarrassment or fear of penalization.

 

Students should complete and agree to an online behavior contract with clear rules against and penalties outlined for harassment and bullying. Studies have shown that bullying rates will drop when children learn it is against the rules and are taught how to report it.

What Teens Need to Know

There are ways to fight cyberbullying. Most ISPs have policies against harassment that apply to both adults and teenagers. Forwarding evidence of bullying to an ISP can be an effective counter-tactic. In addition, most social media sites include a report or block feature for inappropriate content. Use them and speak out.  

Education and Prevention

Assemblies and curriculum-based computer activities have been shown to lead to a reduction in cyberbullying. However, when one message can represent immense volatility and a high potential for damage, active monitoring and response strategies are essential. The same tools that allow businesses to identify negative brand sentiments and conversations can be used in conjunction with a reporting system for a swift, zero-tolerance response. Students are hesitant to report cyberbullying out of concern that they will face a penalty or that nothing can be done,  but a school administration with a clearly defined policy and response procedure will encourage proactive engagement.

Encourage both teachers and students to recognize and report the signs of cyberbullying before it becomes amplified and causes irreparable damage. The best approach marries education, empowerment, and prevention.

Resources

Please refer to the following sites for more information regarding cyberbullying policy and prevention in Canada.

Cyberbullying in the Canadian Legal Arena

Cyberbullying Overview