Cyberbullying on the rise

County Agent’s Corner

COVID-19 continues to sweep through the nation, resulting in the closing of many schools, including pre-K all the way through college. What was once a normal day in a school building suddenly became an at-home learning environment. Much of this at-home-learning means students are spending an increased amount of time online. In this environment, its been found that students who were prone to bullying at school have resorted to cyberbullying instead.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying, usually conducted by teens, is harassment using technology. It involves posting rumors, threats, sexual remarks, a student’s personal information, or other insults. Bullies hide behind social media sites now more than ever. Cyberbullying is more prevalent and harmful because victims can read undesirable texts and emails at home any time of day. In addition, victims feel greater dishonor since the Internet has the potential of reaching millions of online viewers.

With the onset of COVID-19 and safer-at-home restrictions, America continues to conduct many routine activities online. That means more students access the Internet for social as well as educational purposes. Naturally, cyberbullying is on the rise with more people online. An estimated 81 percent of organizations that monitor cyberbullying activities reported an increase in the number of incidences during the past six months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System also reported that nearly 15 percent (14,595) of surveyed Alabama youth are being bullied online. As cyberbullying incidences continue to rise, there are signs that parents and guardians can look for to determine whether kids are being bullied online.

Symptoms of cyberbullying

Approximately 20 percent of bullying incidences are not reported. Children may try to resolve the issue on their own first before coming to an adult. However, children who are bullied may exhibit one or more of the following signs:

• Increase or decrease in use of
digital devices
• Falling grades
• Change in eating and sleep habits
• Complaints of being ill
• Withdrawn behavior and signs of
depression
• Self-destructive behavior and
suicide

What to do if bullying occurs

In addition to keeping communication open, consider the following actions to put a stop to cyberbullying.

• Be aware of what your children
are doing online.
• Don’t ignore cyberbullying.
Immediately address the situation. Ask questions to learn who
is involved and what happened.
Keep a record.
• Report incidences to the service
provider. If it involves a student
who attends the same school as
your child, inform the school. If
necessary, contact the police.
• Help children understand what
bullying is and the adverse effects
it has on other people.

More information

The Alabama 4-H at Alabama A&M University also offers a program designed to reduce bullying in schools and communities called the Helping Youth Promote Empathy (HYPE) initiative. The HYPE program promotes empathy as a method of bullying prevention for school-age children 5-18. The sessions identify the four types of bullying (verbal, social, physical, and cyberbullying) and practice strategies to stop bullying when it occurs.

For more information on this topic and many others, contact your local Blount County Extension Office at 205-274-2129 or by email at burgeap@auburn.edu. You can also find information on upcoming virtual programs and county extension news on our Facebook page, “Blount County-Alabama Extension”.