When I was a kid, I got bullied. I mean, I was pretty easy for the picking. Short, skinny, balding and gay. I was a bully’s dream. My only real defense was just how naïve I was. Being bullied never really bothered me that much, because I honestly thought everyone was getting bullied. So I thought it was just par for the course. It actually wasn’t until I was in the high school musical production that people stopped picking on me. Luckily, I went to a weird school where being in a musical actually made you cool.
But as I grew up, studied education, started working with youth who were fighting the stigma of mental health and started advocating for LGTBQ rights in schools, I realized that not everyone was as lucky as I was. I think some people think “bullying” is a relatively new epidemic in schools, when in reality it’s always been there. We’re just more conscientious now and people are beginning to speak up against bullying when they see it. The biggest difference between bullying then and now is when I went home, it was done for the day. Now, thanks to technology and social media, kids are faced with the prospect of being bullied 24 hours a day.
The best way to tackle bullying is to face it head on by putting education and information into the hands of the people who need it most: teachers, parents and students.
That’s exactly the idea behind TELUS’ Rise Above website that provides resources on the ever-growing problem of cyberbullying. Did you know that nearly one in two youth have experienced online bullying in the last four weeks? It’s a number that’s hard to comprehend, especially when you consider that many youth might not be able to deal with criticism or bullying the way adults do. Heck, even for us it’s not that easy.
For parents, the issue of cyberbullying can be especially troubling, because it moves at such a rapid-pace. It can be hard for them to understand where and when it’s happening. With so many different social media channels these days, parents are often tasked with the impossible: keeping an eye on your children 24 hours a day. TELUS’ Rise Above website has very handy guides and checklists that help cover topics like slang terms, social media, signs that your kid might need some help and how to keep track of your child’s digital footprint.
The website also provides a lot of helpful information for children. While there are resources for the child who is being bullied, it can often be a friend or witness that will notice the problem first and get help. How witnesses react can make a big difference; this tip sheet provides some thought starters for witnesses who want to step in the right way. Simply having these conversations with your child can make a big difference to either them or their classmates.
Of course, teachers are often ground zero for bearing witness to the dangers of cyberbullying. How teachers react to bullying can help stop it and make it hurt less for those involved. TELUS’ online resources provide teachers and schools with much-needed information on slang terms and how to talk to their students about warning signs and ways the students can help each other.
As adults, we often talk about the need for a digital detox, but for children, it can be hard when we are seemingly putting more and more on their plates and forcing them to use technology for every facet of their life. In the guide, it talks about the fact that three-quarters of kids say they’d be more likely to do something when they saw mean posts online if they thought others would respect them for doing it. Kids know what’s right and what’s wrong, but they also worry about the affect it will have on them. And can you blame them, a lot of adults think that like too. So if you or someone you know might be the target of cyberbullying, there is always help out there for you. Don’t be ashamed to ask for it.