I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was in my room, laid across my bed, head buried in the pillows, tears flowing from my eyes. “It’s time to go to school, Leen,” my mom said. And I shook my head furiously “No,” insisting that I would absolutely die if I had to go to back to school another day. Dramatic? Maybe just a little. But in my pubescent years, I was definitively facing the biggest crisis of my little life.
No, I wasn’t afraid of Ms. King’s Algebra test, and even the mystery meat served in Tuesday’s lunch was doable. What I was in dire straits about was a little rumor that spread like wildfire around school about me and a boy named Rob. According to sources, I locked Rob in a closet and assaulted him with an unwanted kiss. While this was true to some extent, the story itself was blown drastically out of proportion. What was lost in translation was that we were playing “seven seconds in heaven.” You see, I had gone into a room with Rob and admittedly, I had tried to secure my first kiss as directed by all of the partygoers at my eleven year old birthday party.
When I returned to school the following Monday after the party, I was greeted with laughs, snickers, name-calling and plenty of dirty looks. Maybe if I had been twelve, I would have known how to handle such an attack on my reputation. But I was just eleven, and clearly ill-equipped to deal with this dilemma. It was obvious that I needed to never return to my school, even if my mother did not agree.
Each and every day classmates and even people I thought were my friends talked about me behind my back. And to be fair, some of them talked about me to my face. Whispers of gossip swirled around for months; whenever I entered a classroom, or walked the hallways or sat down in the cafeteria. And at the time, the pain I felt seemed unbearable and it was something that hurt me for years. In essence, I was bullied by a group of people that made it their business to make sure I was miserable. This was a trying experience, something that many of us have had to deal with to some extent at some time in our middle and high school years.
I remember looking forward to getting home every school day and escaping the madness. At home, I was able to put some distance between me and all of the rumors. I was able to turn it off (even if it was just for a little while). After all was said and done, I could find some solace in the safe confines of my home.
What we might find nowadays is that the home is no longer a safe haven for our youth. As teens hop online and log into their social media accounts, the bullying that they faced in school is compounded. Cyberbullying is when individuals use technology to hurt, harm and humiliate another person. It’s like the bully followed you home from school and moved in. It’s hard to imagine but this is what so many of our adolescents are facing.
Cyberbullying is a monster of a whole other breed. This kind of bullying can be more embarrassing and far reaching as it tends to be very public, easily accessible and sometimes anonymous. Additionally, cyberbullying is often harsher than traditional bullying because people say things online that they wouldn’t dare say in person. Furthermore, cyberbullying can be long-lasting. Once it’s on the internet, it’s forever. According to the Megan Meier Foundation (2018), nearly 35% of students report that they experience cyberbullying. The victimization of these young people online has been linked to an increase in depression amongst teenagers (Pappas, 2018).
The Hope Wanted organization is dedicated to addressing the specific needs of our youth. Through our Youth Services Division, we offer unique programs for our teens and pre-teens. Join the Hope Wanted organization, as we aim to stop bullying in our communities and create a safer environment for all of our youth.
As always: Stay Informed. Stay Involved.
Megan Meier Foundation. (2018). Cyberbullying. Resource Center. Retrieved from https://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/resourcecenter.html
Pappas, S. (2018). Social media cyber bullying linked to teen depression. Scientific American.
Blog Author: Dr. P. K. Wayne