As one of our school’s FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) chapter advisors I’ve been encouraging our underclassmen to prepare for next year’s service projects and competition. I have given several ideas out hoping that the students will run with them. This week one of our chapter officers, Mary*, came to me with an idea for a project for next year. I wasn’t disappointed that she hadn’t chosen one of the ideas I had presented, rather, I was both surprised by her topic and proud that she chose something that she sees as a serious problem in her community, her school. The topic Mary presented was cyber-bullying.
Bullying is not a new topic for anyone with experience in education. It has often been seen as a rite of passage, an unfortunate experience about which little can be done. Bullying is defined as unwanted, deliberate, persistent and relentless harassment. Cyber-bullying is a rapidly increasing and widespread form of bullying that children face today especially as minors use the internet and increasingly younger ages (Manuel, 2011). Cyber-bullying is bullying through email, messaging, on websites such as facebook®, or through cell phones (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010).
Cyber-bullying affects both the recipient and the instigator of the bullying. Students who were bullied felt disappointed, nervous and upset. Their relationships at school, in the family and with friends are often negatively influenced. The effects of persistent bullying can endure into adulthood (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Bullying behavior in youth can be tied to depression and even suicide in elementary, middle and high school students. Victims of cyber-bullying may be at an even higher risk for suicidal behavior especially if the victim already exhibits signs of depression (Gould, Klomek & Sourander, 2011).
Adolescents who are bullied may not be taken seriously for several reasons. Bullying is seen as part of growing up and adolescents are renowned for their strong emotions and over emphasis of events. Still, there are currently no federal or state laws that provide redress for adolescent victims of bullying. And cyber-bullying can be more serious than the typical form of bullying taking place in elementary and middle schools. The Internet provides instigators an outlet to republish comments to an unlimited number of students forever devastating the reputation of the victim (Manuel, 2011). A comment posted on social media such as facebook® and Twitter® can reach thousands of readers in a matter of minutes.
Researchers recommend counseling and activities to prevent bullying behavior. (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Messages should be accurate and should focus on the prevention of bullying rather than the potential link between bullying and suicide (Gould, Klomek & Sourander, 2011). These are best organized in schools as parents often expect the school system to control adolescent behavior both within and out of schools. Schools must weigh student’s freedom of speech with the protection of other students’ rights and reputation (Manuel, 2011).
What will we do?
How do you prevent bullying? Social scientists believe that values play a key role in explaining human behavior. Specifically, responsibility, tolerance, respect and honesty are related to bullying behavior (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Adolescents turn mostly toward their peers for representation of values (Santrock, 2011). I hope that our FCCLA chapter can implement several strategies to aid in the prevention of bullying behaviors at all levels of public education. Perhaps you will see another post documenting their efforts. Where will we start?
How about here?
*Name(s) have been changed
Aydogan, D., & Bulent, D. “Values as a predictor of cyber-bullying among secondary school students.” International Journal of Social Sciences 5.3 (2010): 185.
Gould, M. S., Klomek, A. B. & Sourander, A. “Bullying and suicide: detection and intervention.” Psychiatric Times Feb 2011: 27.
Manuel, N. R. “Cyber-bullying: it’s recent emergence and needed legislation to protect adolescent victims.” Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 13.1 (2011): 219+.
Santrock, J. (2011). Lifespan development (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.