Written by Sarah Syed
Bullying is one of the most common experiences youth from a very young age go through. Though bullying has a very simple definition, it branches out to fit the victims experience and perspective. Children and youth feel like the school grounds are battlefields where they must always have shields against the bombarded by spitballs thrown their way. Names have power like magic spells. Each name transforms a person into a creature of pain, sorrow and toil because it seems like each school has an arsenal of names getting updated each year. And yes, bullying is real and does affect the present and long-term mentality of the victim. Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in the 13-years-olds category on a scale of 35 countries. And although this might seem alarming, 47% of Canadian parents report having a child victim of bullying. However, this is just one piece of the pie. 7% of adult Internet users in Canada, age 18 years and older, self-reported having been a victim of cyberbullying at some point in their life7. The most common form of cyber-bullying involved receiving threatening or aggressive emails or instant messages, reported by 73% of victims. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The following statistics provide in greater detail the percentage of the population who have been affected by cyberbullying:
- Over half of the students who identify as LGBTQ have experienced cyberbullying at one point in their life.
- Girls are more likely to be a victim of cyberbullying than boys. Overall, 36% of girls have reported being cyberbullied compared to 26% of boys.
- 83% of those who have been cyberbullied have also been bullied in person, and 69% of those who admitted to bullying online have also admitted to bullying in person.
During the pandemic, the rates of cyberbullying have increased drastically. Among high school students, 15.5% are cyberbullied and the percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18% to 34%) from 2007- 2016. Alberta experts stated that COVID-19 has provided an extra opportunity for cyberbullying. For example, instances include parents of Asian American children have reported their kids being mistreated and shunned — and not just by other kids. Many adults have been acting racist and calling the virus “The Chinese Virus” or “The Asian Virus.” Especially for youth, children and teenagers will be in front of digital devices even more than they’ve ever been. This gives them even more access to digital devices thus a higher chance of being exposed to cyberbullying.
It is important to note that not just youth or children are victims of cyberbullying but also evidence has shown cyberbullying amongst adults. This makes bullying a bigger societal problem and issue that must be tackled. However, cyberbullying is often considered something else when it is done to adults. It is known as harassment or even stalking. Sixteen percent of women and one in nineteen men have been stalked at some point in their life. Some global statistics include:
- In Australia, around ten percent of adults admitted to being a victim of cyberbullying
- In the U.S, 40% of adults have experienced some form of online harassment and 75% of adults have seen cyberbullying occurring.
- Four in ten Americans have experienced some form on online harassment
Cyberbullying has many effects on the person who is a victim of the act which include the mental health and well being of the victim. The effects are separated into two different categories, long term and short term. Some statistics are as shown.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the students who experienced cyberbullying stated that it really affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school.
- 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last year.2
- Students who experience cyberbullying are more likely to have social, mental health and behaviour problems at school.
- Results showed that bullied children and adolescents have a significantly higher risk for psychosomatic problems than non-bullied agemates. In addition, they tend to experience more headaches and stomach aches.
- About 19 percent of students who were bullied reported that the bullying occurred outside on school grounds, 11 percent reported that it occurred online or by text, 10 percent reported that it occurred on the school bus, 9 percent reported that it occurred in the bathroom or locker room, and 1 percent reported that it occurred somewhere else in school.
- 19 percent of bullied students stated that it affected their overall lifestyle. 14% said that it affected their relationship with family and friends and 9% reported it affected their schoolwork in a negative way.
It is crucial and critically important to know the signs of someone who suffers from cyberbullying as you might be able to help them. According to the National Crime Prevention Center, there are several behavioural changes that might indicate that an individual is a victim of cyberbullying.
- Becomes withdrawn or shy
- Shows signs of depression
- Is extremely my or agitated
- Is anxious or overly stressed out
- Shows signs of aggressive behavior
- Doesn’t want to go to school (When kids are in the classroom, 5.4 million students want to stay home every day for fear of being bullied.)
- Gets into trouble at school
- Skips school Loses interest in school
- Drops in grades
Social/ Behavioral change:
- Suddenly stops using the computer
- Changes eating or sleeping habits (e.g., nightmares)
- No longer wants to participate in activities once enjoyed
- Hurts self, attempts or threatens suicide
- Suddenly changes friends
Signs that a teen is cyberbullying others:
- Stops using the computer or turns off the screen when someone comes near
- Appears nervous or jumpy when using the computer or cell phone
- Is secretive about what they are doing on the computer
- Spends excessive amounts of time on the computer
- Becomes upset or angry when computer or cell phone privileges are limited or taken away
As of 2020, 81% of cyberbullies think that it is easier to get away with bullying online. 90% of the people who witness and see cyberbullying ignore it. However, 84% of those who have seen cyberbullying have reported it. If you are being cyberbullied, it is good to do one of the following things:
- Tell an adult you trust about what’s going on.
- Don’t delete any of the emails, texts, or messages. They can serve as evidence. Keep a record of incidents.
- Don’t forward any mean messages that spread rumors about you or someone else.
- Don’t cyberbully back. Revenge is never the best answer.
- If possible, report the incident to the administrator of the website. Many websites including Facebook and YouTube have safety centers to report cyberbullying.
Recognize that you don’t deserve to be treated that way, and you deserve respect.
To prevent cyberbullying, it is highly suggested to do one of the following things:
- Talk to a trusted adult if you know someone who is being cyberbullied.
- Start an anti-bullying program in your school to educate your peers that cyberbullying is hurtful and wrong.
- Start (or sign) an anti-bullying pledge in your school where students pledge not to bully others and to speak up if they know someone who is being bullied.
- Raise awareness of the cyberbullying problem in your community by holding an assembly and creating fliers to give to younger kids or parents.
As you can see, bullying and cyberbullying have immense impacts on the victims life and health. However, it is important to remember that we are not helpless to prevent or stop it from happening. There are always multiple things to do to stop cyberbullying and to help contribute to making our digital society based on respect and compassion for all.
This post was created in a collaboration with Curious Case of COVID.
Curious Case of COVID is an international, student-run nonprofit organisation that spreads information about the coronavirus pandemic in relation to raising interest about various social, economic and political subjects. Mainstream media tends to neglect a number of important statistics, news stories and thorough analytics, and this is what the awareness platform tries to advocate- all through the words of high school students aspiring to make a change. They aim to ‘Decrypt the Fallacy’, that is, understand and combat the misconception around Covid, and also fight against the notion that “students are too young to understand”.