Bullying today is far more nuanced in the past. Not only are kids still stealing lunch money on the playground, but bullies are also using social media and other internet venues to torment their victims. Part of the reason for that trend stems from the fact that it is easy and often anonymous. But, on top of that, many simply feel they can get away with it.
Unfortunately, they are often right. Cyberbullying can be anonymous and hard to track, but according to at least one expert, kids are also hesitant to report their problems for fear of losing their smartphones. Dr. Conor McGuckin, an assistant professor in education psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, kids would rather suffer through bullying in silence than risk having their smartphones, tablets, or other devices taken away.
“To understand cyberbullying, we need to understand the fundamental characteristics of traditional bullying,” he has said. “But we also need to understand the separate, and thorny, issues that are related to the law, technology, marketing, and the modern lives of children and young people.”
McGuckin also points to the fact that 4 out of 10 victims of cyberbullying respond to it “instantaneously,” and adds that those responses might be part of the problem. Instead, he says, victims should “slow down, think about it, and cool off” before getting the support of parents or even teachers.
Conversations between bullied kids and their parents might be the most productive way to find solutions, but are often easier said than done. McGurkin has offered up a handful of tips to help make conversations easier and more productive. That list includes parents admitting that they don’t know much about social media andhaving the talk during car rides to help avoid eye contact that kids often hate.
“Spot checking and other random searches on your child’s devices or social media accounts are not an effective way to ensure that your child is safe. Parents needs modern tools to help when technology and communication mediums constantly change”, states Paul Adkison, Founder of ZABRA. “ZABRA was created to aid parents through advanced filtering technology that protects their children’s social media accounts and SMS text messages 24×7. Parents are alerted in real-time if questionable information is detected.”
Of course, legislation and regulations will play a role moving forward and agencies around the world are constantly reviewing their bullying policies and installing new ones. In Ireland, all schools are now officially required by law to implement official anti-bullying policies. They must include information about cyberbullying.
Moving forward, however, no laws or rules will work if kids do not report being bullied. So the argument can be made that opening lines of communication and helping kids feel more comfortable should be a priority.