This month, another cyber bullying case has gone through the courts and ruled in favor of the victim. A college student, Dharun Ravi, used his dorm webcam to secretly film his roommate kissing another guy. He then proceeded to post it online. Later, the roommate, humiliated, committed suicide. [Mashable.com]
It is so unfortunate the pain, anger, and hate that goes into these situations. I do not care about your stance on homosexuality, promiscuity, or any of these other ideas. Bullying is not only wrong, but unbiblical, no matter the reason. With the invasion of online content, social media, and electronic communication, the cruel words have only increased.
95% of teenagers are on some kind of social media and most of them log on daily. Of those students, 12% of teenagers have been bullied in person, 9% via text message, and 8% online. While that statistic may seem low, 90% of teens have witnessed cyber bullying. Thankfully three fourths of teens feel like they have an enjoyable time on these social networks. [Study by Pew Internet & American Life Project]
For those that are unsure of what cyber bullying could be seen as, here are three things that Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock’s book The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis (Youth Specialties)
- Name-calling; unwelcome teaching, ethnic, sexual, racial, or body-type insults; threatening, menacing, cursing, or otherwise verbally attacking another person
- Insulting or threatening notes, e-mail, text messages, graffiti, instant messages, or other forms of communication meant to harm another person
- Spreading rumors, marginalizing, excluding, or otherwise intimidating another person socially or psychologically
This new form of bullying is out of control. We would never allow for bullying to happen in our schools and hopefully you are talking about it in your youth groups and helping educate your parents and community about the subject. It definitely is impossible for you alone to police it for your students, nor should it be your responsibility. But as ministers of God’s love, we need to let our students, parents, and community know about the dangers online, that it is okay to talk about it, and things to look out for with teens online.
Here are four things that you need to be sharing.
- To Teens Being Bullied It is not okay for people to say hurtful things online. If someone says something, report it immediately and do not respond in any way. Find a trusted adult and let them see it. What they are doing is wrong and it must stop. You have the power to do it.
- To Teens Who Are Bullying Others What you are doing is wrong, illegal, and a sin. You can go to jail for what you are doing and putting it out on the Internet leaves a trail, so you will be caught. Even if it is over private messages on Facebook, those can be read by police. If you have a problem with someone, talk to an adult or counselor about the issue, do not take it out on someone else.
- To Anyone Who Has Witnessed It Online Even those you are not directly involved, simply seeing it and not reporting it is the wrong choice. You have an obligation as a friend, Christian, or human being to report it. The toughest thing for a victim is to get out of the situation and you need to be the one who supports them. Not doing so for any reason is wrong.
- To Parents This can happen to your student, even if you read everything you see on their Facebook. Do not leave it to a reaction of the situation, be preventative by letting your children know that you want to know what is going on in their lives. Create a space for them to not feel scared to tell you about things like that and daily engage in their lives to see what is going on, even if it is to hear that their day was “fine.”
What steps have you taken to prevent cyber bullying with or from your teens? One step might be to come up with policies for your youth ministry volunteers.
How have you handled a situation where a parent/student approaches you about bullying?