I’ve held various jobs working with children for the past eight years. I’ve worked with preschool, elementary, middle, and high school students during that time, so I think I can say with some authority that kids are, for the most part, awesome.
In those eight years, I’ve developed quite a bit of patience when it comes to dealing with kids. I’ve experienced enough misbehavior, spills, accidents, teasing, fighting, tantrums, and overall chaos to learn not to sweat the small stuff when it comes to kids. There really is no use crying — or yelling at the kid about it, for that matter — over spilled milk.
I don’t lose it in front of kids very often, but the only times I ever have were for one of two reasons. The first was safety, so my reaction stemmed from my fear for their safety: if a child did something that put her directly in harm’s way (such as running into the street without looking), I’d scream at the kid, grab her, whatever it took to remove her from the dangerous situation. It generally scared the heck out of the kid, and my reactions were strong enough to teach them not to repeat the offenses again.
The other times I’ve lost it in front of a kid was when he or she was bullying another child. I understand that sometimes children act out; they’ll get bored so they’ll start pushing the limits to get a reaction. I don’t get upset over a bit of mischief. However, I have zero tolerance for deliberate cruelty, and as past students can probably attest, if I caught a child bullying another, not only would I become furious, but the consequences for that child would be very serious.
Again, in this case I think my angry reactions surrounding bullying stemmed from a sense of protectiveness over the kids — when I feared for the safety or well-being of a child, I’d go into Mama Bear mode and do whatever I could to protect them from harm.
All parents, educators, and anyone who’s worked with children for that matter, want to protect them from being hurt. But what about the type of bullying that we don’t see on the playground — the type of bullying that goes on behind closed doors?
Social media has become an incredible tool for teachers and students, but what happens when it’s used for harm instead of good? I’m talking about cyberbullying, when a child or teen targets another child or teen multiple times for bullying using the Internet or a mobile device. For whatever reason, kids seem to feel empowered by the anonymity those sites offer and use it as an excuse to post nasty comments about their target.
When I came across the following infographic on cyberbullying assembled by the internet education portal OnlineCollege.org, I was shocked by the statistics. More teenagers than ever have access to phones and social media: 69 percent of teenagers surveyed have their own computers or smartphone devices, and of those teens, 80 percent of them are active on one or more social website. A particularly shocking number was this one: 42 percent of teenagers with tech access have reported being cyberbullied over the past year. When was teaching high school English, I worked with a total of 75 students. According to these statistics, 31 of them have probably been cyberbullied over the past year!
The statistics on this infographic made me want to call up every single one of my student’s parents and insist that they prevent their child from using cell phones or the Internet ever again. Of course, that’s not reasonable either. The Internet and social media offer all kinds of opportunities for kids to learn, and to cut them off from endless positive opportunities in an effort to protect them from far fewer negative ones makes no sense. So how do parents and educators help prevent cyberbullying without completely revoking technology?
It starts with education — parents and educators need to teach teens that what is said on the Internet can not only hurt someone else, but that it lasts forever. Another problem is the lack of cases of cyberbullying that are reported. According to this infographic, 90 percent of teens who witness online bullying ignore it. Parents and teachers need to encourage communication about online activity. They need to not only monitor their teen’s Internet access but also talk to their teen about what sites he or she is visiting and who he or she is talking to on these sites.
The more adults that open dialogue with teenagers about online activity, the more comfortable teens will feel in seeking out a trusted parent or teacher in reporting instances of cyberbullying. The more instances that are reported, the more preventable it will become.
Read the infographic below for more statistics surrounding cyberbullying. To learn more about cyberbullying and how to prevent it, visit http://www.stopcyberbullying.org.