Does bullying take a summer break? Not as long as cyberbullying exists

As kids around the country prepare for summer break, many parents think there will be a break from the bullying at schools. While it would be great if bullying took a summer break, it’s simply not the case as long as cyberbullying exists. Millions of kids will be cyberbullied online this summer if nothing is done to raise awareness and prevent it from happening. The more people know about the issue, the better they can prevent and address it.

“Technology is here to stay, but it has opened the door to cyberbullying, and we must address it,” said Kirk Smalley, co-founder of Stand for the Silent. “The health and well-being of the nation’s children are at stake here, so this is an issue we all need to be concerned with.”

According to the Pew Research Center, bullying is among parents’ top concerns for their children, and half of all U.S. teens report that they have experienced cyberbullying. This includes being called offensive names, having rumors spread about them, getting explicit images they didn’t ask for and receiving physical threats. While older teen girls are especially likely to be the victims of cyberbullying, it’s something that can happen to anyone.

Cyberbullying affects one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. It is also linked to a higher risk of committing suicide. A study published in the December 2023 issue of the journal BMC Psychiatry reports that suicidal ideation is significantly higher among adolescents who have been cyberbullied compared to those who have not been victims of cyberbullying.

In another study published in the February 2023 issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, they report that the incidents of cyberbullying and adolescent suicide are on the rise in the U.S. While there are some state laws against cyberbullying, there are no federal laws regarding it. However, they report that civil litigation is commonly pursued in cases of cyberbullying that are associated with the suicide of a minor.

Cyberbullying is an issue that can lead to the mental decline of a minor, and it can significantly increase the risk of suicide. This makes it imperative for parents, schools, and communities to address the situation.

Here are some things that can be done to protect the youth this summer from cyberbullying
Raise awareness. The best way to combat this issue is to raise awareness about it in the community. Those who identify it taking place can quickly shut it down. Ideally, this issue should be addressed in the home, school, and community.

Have a discussion. Parents, caregivers, and other adults should discuss what cyberbullying is so that they can identify it and avoid contributing to it. Cyberbullying includes posting and spreading things around online that are lies, embarrassing photos, threats, impersonating others, etc. Some teens may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional if they have been cyberbullied.

Identify and address it. Once people can identify cyberbullying, they should address it. The first step is to let the person know cyberbullying is not okay and report it to the platform. Keep detailed records of any cyberbullying that takes place, including screenshots and how it was addressed.

Consider technology. There are some technology tools that parents can use to help reduce the exposure to cyberbullying. Some will limit which apps can be used and block out certain information.

See, say, do. When it comes to cyberbullying it is important that when someone sees something that they say something and do something about it. Left unchecked, it gets worse.

Reassure. If a child is being cyberbullied it is important that they know it’s not their fault. Let them know they are not to blame and that it is not justified behavior. Validate their feelings about the issue, listen to them, repeat back what is being heard, etc.

Take it a step further. Some cyberbullying will need to be addressed beyond reporting it to the platform or provider on which it is being shared. Depending on the situation, it may need to be reported to the school or police, especially if it has been threatening.

Speak with an attorney. If taking the steps above does not prevent or stop cyberbullying, some parents may want to consider hiring an attorney. Discuss a civil case with the attorney to see if there are legal options. Even hiring an attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter to the person or family can have a meaningful impact.

“The more we take action against cyberbullying, the safer our children will be,” adds Smalley. “Keeping them safe should be a top priority for everyone in the community.”

Stand for the Silent offers online tools and information to help guide parents regarding all types of bullying, including cyberbullying. Parents can visit their site for information on their cyberbullying prevention program, warning signs, and more. They offer a social bullets program to help parents with this issue and they provide a free downloadable handbook that provides key signals to recognize, guidelines for in-depth discussions, action suggestions, and more.

To get more information, visit the site at: https://standforthesilent.org/for-parents/stopcyberbullying/

Smalley and his wife, Laura, started the organization following their 11-year-old son, ending his own life due to bullying. They turned their pain and loss into a mission of helping others. He travels the country giving presentations about bullying to schools, providing bullying prevention, giving out scholarships, offering intervention strategies, and more. Those interested in getting involved can start a chapter of the group in their area, obtain a free K-2 bullying prevention curriculum  or cyberbullying handbook for parents, host a presentation at their school, intro of how all started video, and donate to help support the cause. To get more information, visit the site at standforthesilent.org/

About Stand for the Silent
Started in 2010, Stand for the Silent is an organization on a mission to help eliminate bullying nationwide. Kirk and Laura Smalley founded the group after their child took his own life due to bullying. They offer free resources for parents and educators and travel to schools to host presentations. They have been to over 6,025 schools and spoken with more than 4.15 million students. To get more information, visit the site standforthesilent.org/.