Truth be told, tracking down any solid numbers on cyberbullying has proven hard. I know because I have spent the better part of the night searching for them. In all of this, I have found many conflicting statistics on the subject. This is mostly because the surveys being run are among smaller, control demographics.
One thing that I can say for certain simply based on recent news stories is that issues of cyberbullying have been on the rise over the last year.
In Pennsylvania police are investigating the death of a 9th grade student, Julia Morath, stating that bullying may have pushed her to commit suicide. In Michigan, 11-year-old Tysen Benz committed suicide after being pranked on social media. And in California, two Marines (out of almost 500 being investigated) are facing punishment in a sex-shaming and cyberbullying incident.
While great strides have been made over the past decade to put an end to bullying, these stories only stand to prove that we need to continue working towards safer schools, communities and cyberspace for our kids.
Now, more than ever, is a time when parents and educators need to come together to bring this topic back into the spotlight in schools and encourage students to be on the lookout for bullying behavior and work together to put an end to it.
So many times issues of bullying are a flash in the pan conversation. While assemblies, rallies and awareness weeks are a great start they should never be an end game, they need to be the start of something bigger.
One of my biggest goals for 2017 is to find ways to continue to work with schools and communities to continue the conversations begun during my visits.
With the school year winding down over the next few weeks, I encourage teachers to find ways to bring lessons on bullying into the classroom before students are set off for the summer months. All too often we start to see incidents of cyberbullying spike while students are on break from school.
Bullies don’t take a vacation.
Plant the seed in their heads now to take care of themselves and their community during this time outside of school.
Now is also a good time to start looking at programs to bring in during the early months of the coming school year. September is “Back to School Month” as well as home to “Suicide Prevention Week.” October is “Bullying Prevention Month” as well as “Cyber Security Month” as well as home to “World Day of Bullying Prevention”, GLAAD’s “Spirit Day” and “National Character Counts Week.”
Take advantage of these opportunities to get students energized and use them as a launching point for continued conversations throughout the year.
From there it is important to keep that conversation going. Have student create posters to hang around the school highlighting the messages they learned. Find teachable moments from the news to help keep them aware of issues happening in real-time in the real world.
Over the coming weeks and leading into the new school year, I will be posting more on this and many more topics so please be sure to follow or subscribe to stay updated!
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.