Mallory Grossman was in sixth grade when she began to receive the texts and Snapchat messages. “You are a loser, no one likes you,” some said. Others claimed that she had no friends. Some told her that she should kill herself. It would come to be a tragically prolific taunt as after months of the torment, the 12-year-old girl took her own life.
Her parents, who had spent those months making complaints to the school and talking to the parents of the four bullies, are now suing Copeland Middle School in Rockaway, New Jersey. They allege that educators and administrators did nothing to address the problem, even when it became evident that it was causing severe problems with Mallory and her school life.
As tragic as Mallory’s story is to parents everywhere, her story is not an isolated incident. In fact, cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent as technology makes everyone more accessible.
The Rising Menace of Teen Cyberbullying
In 2017, Florida Atlantic University did a comprehensive study on nationwide bullying figured among teenagers. One of the alarming figures they found was that 70% of participants had experienced someone spreading a rumor about them online.
Bullying has always been a problem young people have faced, some of a severe enough degree that it requires significant interaction to address. Lately, the topic has been especially prevalent as public shootings continue to make headlines across the US.
But cyberbullying is not like other kinds of bullying. The digital age has given access to victims no matter where they are. Where once a child could find solace at home from tormentors, now they are right there, in their pocket at all times. Perhaps this lack of respite could partially explain why the teen suicide rate has increased in recent years, a trend that has followed the uptick in cyberbullying.
Combat Cyberbullying: Arm Teens with Knowledge
There is no easy way around this problem, nor can we protect our kids all the time from the risks in digital media. Cyberbullying is here to stay, regardless of how many campaigns we run to spread awareness. Because it isn’t about warning parents about the prevalence of the issue — for the most part, we are quite aware.
We should be focusing on attacking the problem where it resides — in our teens. By encouraging them to look out for signs of cyberbullying and what to do to stop it, we can help to eliminate one of the most prominent social issues facing our teenagers today.
How Your Teen Can Identify Cyberbullying
Not every kind of cyberbullying will be as blatant as Mallory’s cyberbullies acted. Be sure to teach your teen to look for the following cyberbullying signs:
- Anxiety when receiving a message
- Anger when receiving a message
- Signs of depression
- Rumors spreading via online or through apps
- Personal information being spread via online or through apps
- Bullying in person, which may then carry online
What to Do About Bullying
The best way to avoid cyberbullying is to encourage your teenager to be open with you. Ask them to let you know if any online abuse is going on. Tell them that they can talk to you about anything. If they come to you about cyberbullying happening to someone else, address the issue together. That may include alerting the school and the parents of the victim about what is going on and who the culprit is if they are known.
Be clear with your teen about the seriousness of cyberbullying. Some teens feel it isn’t as bad as physical or face-to-face bullying and so might not take as many steps to report it. They should know about the high number of cases where this type of behavior has led to self-harm and/or suicide.
Finally, you have to be vigilant. Though we aren’t able to be there to shield our children from every risk and hurt in the world, this is one area where we can do our best to be involved. Make sure you know the apps and websites your teen uses. Know their passwords and don’t allow locks on their phones which can keep you out.
When we treat cyberbullying with the care and attention it deserves, we can begin to finally put an end to it.
Rosenblat, Kalhan, Cyberbullying Tragedy: New Jersey Family to Sue After 12-Year-Old Daughter’s Suicide. Retrieved on 04/18/2018 from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-jersey-family-sue-school-district-after-12-year-old-n788506
Florida Atlantic University, Nationwide teen bullying and cyberbullying study reveals significant issues impacting youth. Retrieved on 04/18/2018 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170221102036.htm
Liahona Academy, The Reality of Teen Depression. Retrieved on 04/18/2018 from http://www.liahonaacademy.com/the-reality-of-teen-depression-infographic.html
Hartwell-Walker, Marie, Cyberbullying and Teen Suicide. Retrieved on 04/18/2018 from https://psychcentral.com/lib/cyberbullying-and-teen-suicide/
Handler, Suzanne, 10 Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying. Retrieved on 04/18/2018 from https://psychcentral.com/blog/10-ways-parents-can-help-prevent-cyberbullying/