Cyberbullying extends beyond the school year for many kids

While the summer months may bring school-based bullying to a close, electronic forms of bullying can result in year-round victimization for some young people.

In the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of students in grades nine to 12 said that they had been bullied on school property during the previous year. While the end of the school year may provide a respite for some young people who are the targets of these bullying behaviors, others continue to be targeted year-round through electronic forms of bullying. According to the CDC report, 16 percent of students indicated they had been electronically bullied during the 12 months before the survey through venues including e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites or texting. Cyberbullying also is an issue in online, cooperative game platforms, according to a Pew Research Center study. 16 percent of respondents stated that they have experienced being bullied in such games.

While the CDC report focuses on young people in grades nine to 12, electronic bullying, also referred to as cyberbullying, is an issue that affects a significant number of younger kids as well. Results of a 2016 study conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center showed that nearly 17 percent of students ages 12 to 17 said they had been targets of cyberbullying. Conversely, 26 percent of those students admitted to participating in cyberbullying behaviors, including posting mean or hurtful comments, spreading rumors, posting inappropriate comments with sexual meaning, threatening harm, posting hurtful pictures or videos or impersonating someone else online.

As kids have increased access to mobile technology at younger ages (73 percent of teens have or have access to a smartphone), there are also more opportunities for kids to stay connected in positive and negative ways after the school year ends.

While many schools have incorporated programs designed to prevent bullying behaviors, it is important for parents and other adults to keep these conversations going with kids throughout the summer months. These discussions are enhanced when adults have a good understanding of what cyberbullying is and how children are using technology, followed up with discussions with young people about responsible use of technology and guidelines for positive online behaviors. See the article, “Cyberbullying: What it is and how parents can respond,” to learn more.

It is also helpful for adults and young people to recognize that, while online bullying and other forms of electronic aggression might be common, a lot can be learned from those young people who report using their voices to interrupt these negative behaviors. See the article, “Kids, kindness and cruelty – and lots of time online,” to learn more.

Experts also stress the importance of providing young people with a menu of strategies they can use for responding to cyberbullying situations. When adults share these strategies with kids, as well as help them use their voices to practice what these strategies might sound like in various scenarios, kids will be better prepared for real-life situations in whatever season or setting in which they occur.

See the article, “Responding to cyberbullying in safe and constructive ways,” to learn more.

If you are looking for more information or community support on improving your social-emotional health and well-being, Michigan State University Extension offers numerous programs that can assist in this process.

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