Being There: Student Victims of Social Media Bullying

Association of Educators
June 3, 2014 — 1,536 views  

With the prevalence of social media, both teachers and students are using networking sites like Facebook and Twitter now more than ever. However, the student and teacher experiences on these sites are often vastly different. Social media bullying is a real and sometimes fatal phenomenon that all educators need to become aware of so they can learn how to combat it and support their students. 

Facebook is one of the most common venues of social media bullying, but micro-blogging websites like Tumblr are quickly catching up. These websites allow anyone to create a miniature website without censorship, and many bullies use them to create what are known as hate pages about other students in school. From sharing unflattering images to scathing remarks, social media bullies can turn a simple website into a highly targeted bulling platform in moments. Even students who use social media profiles for legitimate reasons may be flooded by anonymous harassment in the form of comments. 

Social media bullying affects more than just self-esteem. The Do Something project reports that a massive 70 percent of students report being the victim of cyber bullying. Even more shockingly, 75 percent admit that they have visited a website specifically targeted towards bashing another student. The Cyber Bullying Research Center also reports that not only are cyber bulling victims more likely to have drastically lowered self-esteem, but also to consider suicide as a means of escape. 

In order for teachers and other educators to do something about social media bullying, they must first understand what it is. The most common form of social media bullying is harassing text messages, spreading rumors or sending threats. Cyber bullies hide behind the anonymity provided by the internet and even phone applications that allow them to send text messages anonymously. It is not uncommon for these bullies to pose as multiple people online, using various anonymous screen names to create the perception that there are more bullies than there really are. These ruthless tactics often leave victims of cyber bullying feeling alone, ganged up on, and afraid. In fact, Do Something reports that only one in ten victims of social media will turn to a parent or trusted adult for help resolving the situation. 

If anonymity is the shield that cyber bullies use to hide behind, open discussion is the weapon educators can use to stop them. By hosting open and honest conversation in and outside the classroom, teachers can create a dialogue between victims of bullying that lets them know they are not alone. Many victims are too embarrassed to reach out for fear that the bullying they experience means something is wrong with them. By showing these victims that they have peer allies and trusted adults they can turn to, social media bullies lose the ability to isolate and silence their victims. 

Another important step that educators can take to eradicate cyber bullying is to encourage parents to get involved. The generational gap between students and parents is often large enough that parents simply don't realize how serious of an issue it is. By informing parents and giving students a safe place to turn, educators can bridge the communication gap and help put an end to the traumatic cycle of social media bullying.

Association of Educators