A few weeks ago, two 12-year-old kids were arrested in Florida for cyberbullying in connection with a middle school student who hanged herself.
According to published reports, one of the suspects called the victim names, threatened to expose sensitive personal information, and started rumors about the victim having sexually transmitted diseases. The other suspect video-chatted with the victim, egging her on about hanging herself, saying, “If you’re going to do it, just do it.”
Cyberbullies are those who use digital technology (accessing the Internet with computers, tablets or cell phones) to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass or otherwise target another child, preteen or teen, according to stopcyberbullying.org.
Today, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24, making it critically important that we understand suicide warning signs, as well as what to do if we suspect someone is being bullied.
Some parents think their kids are safe from cyberbullying because their kids don’t have smart phones, but access to the Internet is available via tablets and computers, too. Kids use them for schoolwork and to share information with friends and family using social media. Even without a phone, parents need to know that their kids can be at risk for cyberbullying.
Bullying comes in many forms, whether it happens online or in person. It can include physical altercations, name-calling, teasing, spreading rumors and more. Teens can be bullied because of their appearance, dress, academic ability, disabilities, hobbies, social status, or even their parents’ standing in the community. Kids and teens who are bullied typically have low self-esteem and poor academic performance. Overall, they struggle harder to succeed.
So how can parents tell if their child is the victim of bullying—physical, cyber, or both? The same symptoms apply whether bullying is in person or online. If your child’s grades plummet, if your child disconnects with friends, quits activities he or she has enjoyed, doesn’t want to go to school or is suddenly “sick enough to stay home” much of the time, it’s time to ask your child what’s going on. Let your son or daughter know that there is nothing too terrible to share with you, whether it’s drugs, sex, violence, or something else. Promise them (and yourself) to listen to their opinions without judging.
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that bulling will not be tolerated. Research shows this can reduce and even stop bullying behavior over time. The website www.stopbullying.gov provides a number of tips for adults in their efforts to stop bullying:
Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
Separate the kids involved.
Make sure everyone is safe.
Stay calm and model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
Don’t ignore it. Don’t assume kids can work it out without adult help.
Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
A weapon is involved.
There are threats of serious physical injury.
There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
There is serious bodily harm or sexual abuse.
Bullying affects kids in many ways: some lose sleep or feel sick; others withdraw. A few will even consider suicide. To overcome bullying, it’s important that teens know what bullying is and where they can turn for help.
If you’re a teen feeling hopeless or helpless, or you know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They understand bullying and are there to help those victimized by it.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com