WASHINGTON D.C. — More teens say they’re experiencing not one but multiple forms of cyberbullying. Things like offensive name-calling, false rumors and even physical threats.
“It’s hard for the kids to shut it off,” said Mary Sok, high school teacher.
In its most recent survey, the Pew Research Center found most teens believe their physical appearance made them a target for cyberbullying.
Researchers said older teen girls are more likely to experience bullying compared to teenage boys. For example, more teenage girls say they received explicit photos they didn’t ask for or had someone else share inappropriate images of them without their consent.
Sok said she hears some of these stories firsthand.
“Almost a norm, unfortunately, where [students say] I know that I’m going to get harassed in some way, or it might be targeted, or I might have false rumors spread about me,” said Sok.
The report also found about 70 percent of Black teens say cyberbullying is a major problem for their age. That’s compared to about 46 percent of White teens.
Experts from the Cyberbullying Research Center say it can be difficult to determine if your teen is being bullied online. Co-Director for the organization, Justin Patchin, suggests having open minded discussions with your teens.
“Need to pave the way for these conversations where kids will feel safe discussing these things,” said Patchin. “Are you experiencing these things? Is it happening to your friends? Do you feel comfortable talking with me, if you do experience these things? We’ll work through it together.”
He said this process also includes exploring potential scenarios.
“For example, does a child know how to block somebody on a social media app? Do they know how to report them to the website? Do they know how to gather evidence, you know, taking a screenshot of hurtful comments?,” explained Patchin.
Not In Our School is a nonprofit that works with teachers and students to help address cyberbullying. Sok is a consultant for the organization.
She said they try to help teens develop plans for how to respond to bullying.
“Showing students and empowering students giving them ways that examples of how to lead and how to stand up right,” said Sok. “Sometimes you might have to model in the classroom roleplay or will do something like ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda.’ Here’s what I would have done. Here’s what I should have done, right? Here’s what I could have done.”
Experts also suggest paying attention for potential red flags. This can be major changes in your child’s behavior, eating or sleeping habits.
You can find free resources here: https://cyberbullying.org/ and https://www.stopbullying.gov/.
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