Cyberbullying not a ‘tech’ issue: Pt 1

COLUMN

Cyberbullying continues to grow and present itself as a huge challenge for schools, government policy makers, stakeholders, parents and the community.

Cyberbullying is not to be separated from bullying. Both behaviors are about relationship power and control. In using a technological device, you have harassment that happens online, usually via email, text, an online game or a social media platform. Cyberbullying can be labelled as “relational bullying;” therefore, it requires a relationship management based type of approach in dealing with its impact and prevention.

Relational Bullying (or Relational Aggression) is a form of bullying that was common amongst youth and more so among girls. It involved social manipulation such as group exclusion, spreading rumours, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to dislike a person. Relational bullying can be used as a tool by bullies to both improve their social standing and control others. Sounds like the 2016 election campaign to me.

Bullying is getting more attention now than a few years ago, as laws and policies have been created because of it. Government agencies have created departments to address it. The National Education Association has said the “Trump effect” is the reason for increased bullying and harassment against certain students. Some are lobbying for it to be recognised as a serious health issue. A research centre was founded to study its patterns and keep up with its growth. Lives have unfortunately come to an end because of it. Adding to this critical issue are apps that offer anonymity, so people feel as though they can say whatever they want without being held accountable because they can’t be traced by law enforcement.

Such was the case late last year where a fake profile was created for a Texas high school senior as if she were using the app to solicit sex. She had been bullied for months and her life ended after sending her family a text message. Her parents rushed home to find her holding a gun to her chest. After pleading with her to drop the gun, she chose to end her life.

As the father of a teenage daughter who inspired me to create SafeCyber, my heart is saddened by what this father had to endure as his daughter’s last moments. What’s even more heartbreaking is that she appeared to have done everything right. She told her father about the bullying incidents. She told the police, but because the app was one of anonymity, they could not trace the bully or bullies. She had been bullied for years offline about her weight before the harassment started online. What more could have been done? We may never know the answer; however, this issue needs to be addressed within a broader social context and a range of developed and taught skills.

Teaching social and emotional resilience in schools and communities will have a greater effect than policy regulation or legislation in dealing with cyberbullying. Children should be taught a range of social and emotional skills early in school so that it will assist them in dealing with these issues. Skills like pro-social values, emotional skills, social skills and high-order thinking skills would better equip them should they be the victim of this unwanted behaviour. Scholars also need to be involved in the creation of materials or resources, promotion of socially acceptable behaviour and be front-runners in raising awareness.

Lack of knowledge creates gaps, and allowing children to be part of the solution will enhance their knowledge, skill, and ability to prevent and intervene in bullying situations sooner rather than later.

Cyberbullying continues to grow and present itself as a huge challenge for schools, government policy makers, stakeholders, parents and the community.

Cyberbullying is not to be separated from bullying. Both behaviors are about relationship power and control. In using a technological device, you have harassment that happens online, usually via email, text, an online game or a social media platform. Cyberbullying can be labelled as “relational bullying;” therefore, it requires a relationship management based type of approach in dealing with its impact and prevention.

Relational Bullying (or Relational Aggression) is a form of bullying that was common amongst youth and more so among girls. It involved social manipulation such as group exclusion, spreading rumours, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to dislike a person. Relational bullying can be used as a tool by bullies to both improve their social standing and control others. Sounds like the 2016 election campaign to me.

Bullying is getting more attention now than a few years ago, as laws and policies have been created because of it. Government agencies have created departments to address it. The National Education Association has said the “Trump effect” is the reason for increased bullying and harassment against certain students. Some are lobbying for it to be recognised as a serious health issue. A research centre was founded to study its patterns and keep up with its growth. Lives have unfortunately come to an end because of it. Adding to this critical issue are apps that offer anonymity, so people feel as though they can say whatever they want without being held accountable because they can’t be traced by law enforcement.

Such was the case late last year where a fake profile was created for a Texas high school senior as if she were using the app to solicit sex. She had been bullied for months and her life ended after sending her family a text message. Her parents rushed home to find her holding a gun to her chest. After pleading with her to drop the gun, she chose to end her life.

As the father of a teenage daughter who inspired me to create SafeCyber, my heart is saddened by what this father had to endure as his daughter’s last moments. What’s even more heartbreaking is that she appeared to have done everything right. She told her father about the bullying incidents. She told the police, but because the app was one of anonymity, they could not trace the bully or bullies. She had been bullied for years offline about her weight before the harassment started online. What more could have been done? We may never know the answer; however, this issue needs to be addressed within a broader social context and a range of developed and taught skills.

Teaching social and emotional resilience in schools and communities will have a greater effect than policy regulation or legislation in dealing with cyberbullying. Children should be taught a range of social and emotional skills early in school so that it will assist them in dealing with these issues. Skills like pro-social values, emotional skills, social skills and high-order thinking skills would better equip them should they be the victim of this unwanted behaviour. Scholars also need to be involved in the creation of materials or resources, promotion of socially acceptable behaviour and be front-runners in raising awareness.

Lack of knowledge creates gaps, and allowing children to be part of the solution will enhance their knowledge, skill, and ability to prevent and intervene in bullying situations sooner rather than later.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you think Wainui and Okitu should be reticulated for water and sewage?