As someone who has spent a considerable portion of their life on the internet—playing games and browsing social media—I have certainly witnessed a lot of toxicity. Sometimes I will be the direct target of insults cast from a user with a cloak of anonymity. Other times I will overhear my little sister and her friends talking about a girl at their school who was absent because she was harassed by a group of bullies on snapchat.
Cyberbullying like this is everywhere. If you ask your own kid if they have seen it take place they will almost certainly say they have. Anyone can go to any site with user-generated content and see some form of cyberbullying taking place. It isn’t all that rare to bear witness to a horde of girls commenting venomous insults under another student's Instagram post because she’s not in the popular crowd. Or to see a group of guys calling their “”friend”” a pussy because he didn’t drink at a party. Cyberbullying like this is something that students see all the time.
Yet, it seems to go completely unnoticed by clueless parents like you.
Your children can easily log onto the internet and do anything. They might use it to do homework or they may use it to connect with their friends. But logging on to the internet could be doing them far more harm than good.
Maybe you have used the internet yourself and haven’t seen any of the awful things kids are saying to each other online. As a parent, you most likely have other things going on and no time to spend idling around on the internet for very long. But just because you don’t see it happening does not mean your kids aren’t fighting a battle they have no chance of winning.
There are some who do not have to worry about online drama: these lucky ones might just find themselves wasting an hour arguing about something insignificant and move on. But if you aren’t checking up on your own children how do you know they don’t go to sleep wracking their brains as to why so many people hate them? Why do so many people say such awful things about them online? And why is it that no matter how much time has passed the ugly things said about them don’t disappear from the webpage.
Cyberbullying like this is a serious issue. About 1 in 3 students have been cyberbullied to some extent. In other words, there is a one in three chance that your own child knows how it feels to be harassed online—a fact you most likely aren’t aware of. Of course, bullying in general is still a substantial issue in schools. However, access to the internet means that a student’s home is no longer a safe space. Instead, home is just where bullies go from face-to-face insults to attacks which anyone can participate in. And if your child is caught up in one of these malicious smear campaigns against them, it might feel as though their world is gradually falling apart. Worst of all you—the person who’s supposed to protect them—do not even see it happening.
The suicide of 12-year-old Gabriella Green of Surfside Middle School in Panama City most likely shocked her parents, who knew little of what the young girl was going through, just as many of you reading this wouldn’t. Gabriella had become the victim of nasty rumors spread online spearheaded by another classmate. Gabriella’s struggles went unnoticed by school officials or her own neglectful parents. When she did try to reach out to someone (a middle school boy) after attempting to hang herself, she was told to try again. After this Gabriella lost sight of any hope she had of getting out of her situation and decided to end it all. After the 12-year-old was found hanging from a dog leash in early 2018 two suspects—the girl who started the rumors and the boy who told her to hang herself—were arrested and put in juvenile detention.
You may be thinking to yourself “How is this possible? How could her parents not know she was in such distress? Why didn’t her parents do anything?” But before you get angry I want you to ask yourself a question. Do you know who your children are talking to online? And do you know for sure they aren’t going through a similar situation as you read this? Because if you haven’t taken the time to check on them and make sure it is not happening to them then you are part of the problem.
Students are still so affected by cyberbullying because they are left on their own so often. Many parents like you aren’t doing their job which is to watch over your children when they are needed the most, when they are alone and being harassed online. In many cases, your child won’t go to you for help first. Instead, it is up to you to go to them and make sure they are alright. If you have a child of your own, and you aren’t making sure that your kid is safe online, then you are not doing your job.
I know a handful of parents who don’t even know what apps their children are on. I’ve seen my friends get threatened and called names online. I’ve done my best to support them and make sure everything is okay. But, if I can put my time into making sure my friends are alright then you have no excuse to ignore your child’s cyberbullying problems.
I’m not saying you need to keep your son's and daughters’ phones in a basket during the day or check every text they receive. What I’m saying is that you should make more of an effort to talk with them and make sure everything’s going alright in school. You should hear their problems out and not say anything as ignorant as “just put your phone down”. If there is a problem at school, then you should be in the principal’s office making sure it gets resolved.
It’s not just the cyberbullying that hurting today’s youth, It’s the parents like you who are ignorant to it.
Unfortunately for you and your children, cyberbullying will never go away overnight. As technology advances and new apps come out that allow users to say and do whatever they want, the more we will see problems arise. The best thing you can do to keep your children safe is to be more aware of the problems your children face and how you can help solve them.