Thursday, 24 November 2016

Cyber-Bullying – A Terrifying Reality for Many

Bullying in school has always been an issue and can range from pranks to ostracism by cliques, to more aggressive emotional and even physical abuse. I remember well in the 8th grade when Dee (bigger and faster than me), would decide she liked my lunch better. Going hungry for me was not nearly as bad as the painful arm-twisting (out of sight and earshot of teachers) I would get when she demanded it. I would dread lunchtime and suffered many symptoms that we now acknowledge as stress.  Fortunately, for me, this ended with the school year when we moved.

Now consider the onslaught of cyber-bullying. The level of cruelty from behind the anonymous screens of laptops, notebooks and phones knows no bounds – at least not yet.  Parents, teachers, administrators and communities are coming together to figure ways to control, to monitor and attempt to mitigate the damages from these offenses. However, the damage has been done to so many and these damages are becoming more serious and more frequent.

This article is not about cyber-bullying itself, but about examples of students who have suffered and managed to conquer the bullying for themselves.  They have come up from the depths of embarrassment, loneliness, hopelessness, depression and fear by their bootstraps and turned an ugly world into something positive and strong.  This is what all kids should focus on – you are not alone, in fact you are with the 87% of kids who have witnessed cyber-bullying and the whopping third of pre-teens and teens who have been victims (

First know that we are all in this together – whatever is hurting you is also hurting many, many others.  And should you be tempted to respond in kind (or worse), please know there is no good outcome.  Whatever your response, it can encourage the bullies and perpetuate the downward spiral.  Instead of responding, record!  Keep every post, tweet and email for your records and know you are building your case. And yes, you will present your case to those who not only care about you, but are very concerned and ready to tackle this growing problem.

Here are some stories of kids who did this. They took the abusive bullying in a positive direction to help themselves, help other victims and even the bullies (one came forward and apologized).


BenniCinkle rose to internet fame in March, 2011 when she appeared in the “Friday” music video that went viral on the Internet. Immediately after the “Friday” video began to spread, Benni became a target for aggressive online bullying. Instead of reacting defensively or shying away, she met her critics with wit and candor. Soon, anonymous bullies became die-hard fans, and Benni’s online reputation as a fun, approachable, and down-to-earth teen began to grow. Aware that she had stumbled upon a platform that offered international reach, Benni decided to use the attention to raise awareness for the causes she cares about most.(


“… but as her cell phone continued to vibrate with awful texts, an idea came to Nicole: She could stop this by controlling people’s access to her.

She deleted her Facebook account. She vowed to ignore mean texts. That was difficult, but not responding became easier than trying to argue with bullies who were never going to stop harassing her. And Nicole figured out how never to read a hateful text. “I know who is likely to send me something hurtful, so when I see that a message is from one of those people, I delete it before reading it,” she says.

But ignoring the bullying wasn’t enough. By then, Nicole’s mother was so horrified about her daughter’s ordeal that she began educating herself about cyber-bullying. Shawn Edgington spoke at schools about the issue, but soon realized that kids wanted to hear about cyber-bullying from a teen.

Would Nicole want to be that teen? She jumped at the opportunity. For her, there was no better way to get even with her tormenters than by telling the world what she had endured and what she had learned. Nicole would be helping other teen victims of cyber-bullying.

Shawn formed the Great American NO BULL Challenge, with Nicole as the campaign’s spokesperson. Speaking to kids about her cyber-bullying experience has been healing for Nicole.“This has allowed me to stop running from my past,” Nicole says. “Instead of letting others tear me down, I’m able to live my life to the fullest while inspiring others to do the same. I am seeing how powerful it can be to stand up to cyberbullies.”

And from 15 year old Ally Del Monte:

But just as social media can be used for ill, it is an outlet that Ally is now using to spread a positive message. This year, she claims, she has talked 67 people out of committing suicide. She has started an anti-bullying campaign online called #bebrave because it was bravery, she said, that saw her through her darkest times.

"My story is not for me. It's to help other people," she said. "By sharing my story, I hope I can show kids that it does get better."


It is very encouraging to see these teens stand up to the bullying, not in a combative way, but in a way that has an impact on both stopping its effects on the victim and many times in stopping the bullying itself. By speaking out and supporting others to do the same, the victims can take control of this situation, expose the bullies for who they are – typically low self-esteem kids who want to belong somewhere and think that this behavior will make them really cool.

Here are a few tips for parents whether or not you suspect your child may be a victim:

1. Talk about tips and strategies to staying safe if they encounter a bully (in person or online).
2. Give them tips about how to walk away, or stand up for themselves by confidently saying "stop."
3. Have open and honest communication.
4. Encourage them to do what they love and keep their minds off the hurtful words or physical actions.
5. Tell them they aren't alone and that they can find friends to help them through their problems.
6. Compliment them and encourage them to compliment others.
7. Remind them that it gets better.

There are hundreds of helpful websites regarding cyber-bullying, its sources, its effects, its prevention and its recovery. Teachers, administrators and counselors are aware and ready to help. Perhaps, the most important underlying message here is in the following quote:

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