What To.Do.When An.8.Year.Old.Says.Theyre.Going.To.Kill Themself Suicide and the Cyberbully

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Suicide and the Cyberbully

It used to be that bullying meant having your lunch taken or a bloody nose after school. Today, however, bullying has gone high-tech. “Cyberbullying” is when a child, pre-adolescent or teenager is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another minor using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. With their identities hidden behind computer screens, cyberbullies can be harder to catch, and sometimes even bolder, than their playground predecessors. Unfortunately, children have even killed themselves after becoming a victim of cyberbullying. Recently, criminal charges were levied against several teenagers in the well-publicized case of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Massachusetts. The young man committed suicide in January after enduring relentless bullying – “cyber” and otherwise – by his classmates.

Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) report that approximately one in four young people have been involved in bullying in some way. Bullies are considered popular and their victims are at increased risk for suicide. Both the bully and the victim can suffer from depression – the number one cause of suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. Teenage boys are more likely to commit suicide than girls. A CDC study also showed that 14.5 percent of American high school students reported seriously considering suicide during the year before the survey, and 6.9 percent said they had attempted suicide one or more times during the same period. Tragically, many children who have been bullied end up taking their own lives.

The incidence of cyberbullying is expected to increase as more children use text messages and emails as forms of communication. Sue Limber and Robin Kowalski, researchers and teachers at Clemson University, in South Carolina, recently completed a study of 3,767 students in grades 6 through 8. Some of their findings are as follows:

  • The most common form of cyberbullying is instant messaging
  • Chat messages and email messages were close behind
  • Girls were twice as likely as boys to be victims

i-Safe surveyed 1500 students from 4th – 8th grades. Their serious statistics indicate:

  • 42% of children have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 happened more than once.
  • 35% of children have been threatened online. Almost 1 in 5 happened more than once.
  • 21% of children have received mean or threatening e-mails or other messages.
  • 58% of children admit that someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 in 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of children admit to having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or adults about something bad or hurtful that happened to them online.

It is important for parents to recognize if their child is a bully and/or a victim. Brandy Williams, an educator and consultant for Texas public schools lists the signs of both a cyber bully and the victim of cyber bullying.

Signs Your Child Is a Cyberbully

  • Uses the computer at all hours of the night.
  • Quickly switch screens and/or close windows when you come.
  • A child is unusually upset when they cannot use the computer.
  • Avoids discussions about what they do online.
  • Laughs excessively while using the computer.
  • Becomes irritable if you question them or interrupt their computer time.

Signs Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied

  • Unexpectedly or suddenly stops using the computer.
  • Appear nervous, anxious, worried or scared when an instant message appears.
  • Loses interest in going to school, extracurricular and/or general outside activities
  • Is visibly angry, frustrated, depressed or sad after using the computer
  • Becomes abnormally withdrawn and distant from family, friends and favorite activities
  • Lack of appetite with foods in general and specific preferred foods

The following are Cyberbullying Tips for your children:

  • Tell a trusted adult about the bullying, and keep telling until you find someone who takes action.
  • Do not open or read messages from cyberbullies.
  • Tell a teacher or administrator at your school if it is school-related.
  • Do not delete the messages ~ they may be needed to take action.
  • Protect yourself: Never agree to meet face to face with anyone you meet online.
  • If harassed via chat or instant messaging, the “bully” can often be blocked.
  • If you threaten harm, inform the local police.

It is important for adults to become proactive when it comes to effecting change against cyberbullying. Often, no action is taken until the situation is completely out of hand. Children are often reluctant to confide in parents for fear of reprisals, that is, losing their “cyber privileges.” Cyberbullies deserve to be punished as a result of their actions. Steps can be taken to collect the timestamps on chat sessions, and IP addresses. Computer hard drives can be searched to locate hidden IP addresses and chat logs. It is possible to collect enough information to present to the school and police to press charges. Professional help should also be considered, due to the increased incidence of depression among both the bully and the victim. A psychologist can offer a safe haven for children to discuss their fears and concerns. Ultimately, this could lead to saving the lives of both the cyber bully and the cyber victim.

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