By Paul Grossinger
Cyberbullying dangers do not just begin and end with the harassment. In school, via mobile, and online, cyberbullying dangers can extend for years after the initial bullying activity.
In a story reported out of Las Cruces, New Mexico, a now 26 year old woman reports still experiencing cyberbullying dangers from her ex-boyfriend and his associates. The bullying comes nearly a full decade after she broke up with him at the age of 16 and began facing cyberbullying dangers from him as a teenager.
“Her ex put her name and photo on multiple sex sites and the damage spread,” according to the Las Cruces Sun News.
Stories like this are becoming increasingly less common as teens and teens-turned-adults find new, inventive ways to harass. Cyberbullying dangers now come from sex websites, social media sites, text messaging, smartphone apps, and other sources and it is almost impossible for victims to contain the threat.
Worst, even as cyberbullying dangers extend many years past initial harassment, as in the Las Cruces case, attacks are also beginning increasingly early in grade and middle school.
“We have found that middle school victims of cyberbullying score higher on a suicide ideation scale,” according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We have heard many tragic stories of adolescents who commit suicide after enduring bullying and cyberbullying.”
Translation: children and teens are bullied younger and the impact of the cyberbullying extends for years longer than in the past. That combination is a recipe for disaster for vulnerable kids and teens.
Indeed, ‘bullying can start whenever a child gets a cell phone or has access to the internet,’ according to Caroline Knorr, the Parenting Editor of Common Sense Media.
So, what can be done to contain cyberbullying dangers? All effective change will begin with parents and educators and will come from a combination of new rules, communication with bullies and victims, and effective new forms of enforcement.
Educators are beginning to respond to cyberbullying with new regulations. In Las Cruces’ own public school district, there is a new policy that educators must undergo training to recognize victims of cyberbullying. That is progress and, for parents or educators where such resources and regulations are not immediately available, online resources such as the Cyberbullying Research Center and StopCyberbullying.org provide helpful prevention tips and guides for working with victims.
The last step is effective rules enforcement and prevention. Because cyberbullying dangers are 24/7 and come from online and mobile sources, educators can only do so much to stem bullying. Parents must do more, particularly parents of grade, middle, and junior high students where guardians have a higher-level of control over their children’s daily lives. Software such as Net Nanny, which blocks bullying and inappropriate content on the web, and MMGuardian Parental Control, which monitors text messages and blocks inappropriate apps on smartphones, are tools that can help parents effectively regulate their children’s digital usage and keep them safe from cyberbullying.
As the story from Las Cruces shows, cyberbullying dangers are tough to contain after harassment begins. Parents and educators must do more to prevent cyberbullying before its spread is impossible to contain.