Commentary: How to combat cyber-bullying

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Sabine Kanz

As technology has become vital to everyday life, cyber-bullying has seen a rise.

These days, everything is online. 

And that includes bullying.

Bullies have a greater power when they are online because they are able to hide their identity. This makes it much easier for them to anonymously attack people without much fear of retribution.

Cyberbullies usually attack people mentally, whether they are asking for nude photos, sending rude texts or making fun of a picture, post or culture. 

They specialize in making people feel alone in the world. 

But purposefully harming or hurting someone on social media just to look cool or because you had a bad day is not a valid excuse. 

Recently, I was having an absolutely terrible day because of someone on a Zoom call. 

Immediately after class, I sat down and called a friend, crying. She told me that it was not my fault people are mean and that I’ll always have friends and family in my corner. 

Towards the end of our conversation, my aunt walked in. My aunt waited until I got off the phone, and then began to help me as well. She said people who are mean could have something else going on in their lives. 

In other words, you don’t know the whole story. 

Maybe they are insecure about themselves. Maybe they aren’t getting enough attention back home. But having low self-esteem or being jealous is not a reason to bring other people down.    

Whatever the reason may be, it gives them no right to be mean to you. But it shouldn’t affect you, because their opinions should not matter to you at all.

I realized my aunt was right. In ten years, this kid isn’t going to bother me. This kid is not important to me. They do not define who I am as a person, how hard I work, what my feelings are or what my life is like. 

They don’t even know my family, who supports me and will continue to love me no matter what.

2020 statistics show that social media cyberbullying is one of the greatest fears parents from around the world currently have for their children. Your parents, guardians, teachers and counselors are your strongest supporters, and they will have your best interests in mind. They are on your side no matter what. 

Of course, there are some exceptions to this. But just make sure that you have a trusted friend or family member who you can turn to in a time of distress. 

Cyberbullying also makes victims feel terrible about themselves and can lead to depression.

“Victims of cyberbullying are at a greater risk than non victims of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors,” the Journal of Medical Internet Research said in a 2018 study.

Emily Belgarde is a mental health associate who works at the Wellness Center for Granite Bay High School.

Belgarde is against bullying and has some tips for combating cyberbullying.

“Those who engage in bullying behavior thrive off their victim’s reaction,” Belgarde said. “The best thing you can do in response to your bully specifically is nothing at all. Not responding back on social media or not retaliating can take the power away from the person bullying you.”

The best thing you can do in response to your bully specifically is nothing at all. Not responding back on social media or not retaliating can take the power away from the person bullying you.”

— Emily Belgarde

Belgarde also encourages students to save all the evidence, in case the matter gets out of hand and an adult needs to be brought in.

An article titled “Bystander Effect” from the website Psychology Today says that , “The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person in distress.”

“(Because of the bystander effect), (the bystander) should speak out and help get the victim support,” Belgarde said. “Bystanders should also avoid joining in or laughing. Peers who silently accept this behavior help to support the bullying behavior, which can encourage it’s continuance.”

Belgarde also advises victims and bystanders alike to alert a trusted adult to what is going on.

“About 50% of students who are cyberbullied do nothing about it and only one in ten will tell an adult,” Belgarde said.

When asked about helping victims, Belgarde had a single objective.

“Although it is really important that the bully be identified and punished for their behavior so that the bullying stops, this is not what helps the victim of cyberbullying heal from this experience,” Belgarde said. “The ultimate goal for victims who have been bullied is restored self-respect and increased resilience to combat these interactions in the future.  They need to be able to regain their sense of dignity.”

During this stressful and worrisome time, with COVID and the election, it’s important to remember to be kind and respectful while online. 

What you say or do could affect someone’s entire life.

A Message from the Wellness staff:

If you have experienced being a victim of bullying or have witnessed bullying and would like to talk with someone you can reach out to your school counselor -or- submit a self-referral form to speak to someone in the Wellness Center for support  by going to this link: bit.ly/studentwellnessrequest

Those who have bullied in the past or are currently engaging in this behavior can confidentially seek support in the Wellness Center to understand why they make these choices and how to change future behaviors. This is done in a safe and supportive way. It takes courage to acknowledge that a behavior change may be needed and you will be treated with dignity and respect for seeking help.

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