Advances in social media, instant messaging and smart phones have moved bullying from a schoolyard fear to a constant threat. With only 1 in 10 victims informing a parent about cyber bullying abuse, it is more important than ever for us to make sure that we don’t miss the signs. As National Anti-Cyber Bullying Awareness month comes to a close, check out our Q&A with an anonymous individual who experienced both cyber bullying and physical bullying during middle and high school.
Important: This Q&A is meant to give an understanding of cyber bullying from the perspective of this person and should not be taken as advice.
When did you first start getting bullied and how did it start?
I first started getting bullied in sixth grade. I went to a small school where everybody knew everybody and the bullying started off with little stuff like other people in the class creating a “club” that I wasn’t allowed to be in, but progressed to more severe verbal, physical and online abuse. I can remember times when people would make fun of my haircut or the outfits I wore. This is back when Myspace was a big thing, and people would post images there or send me anonymous messages, even though it was clear who it came from.
Describe your experiences with cyber bullying.
In my case, regular bullying and cyber bullying overlapped because it was the same people doing the bullying – just in different ways. When I got into middle and early high school most of the people in my grade ostracized me so I made friends with older kids, which I guess made me mature more quickly. One example was that I had sent my significant other a semi-provocative photo of myself and then during class, one of the students in my grade took my phone, found the picture and texted it to all their friends. From then on I was labeled a slut and everyone treated me terribly. People would text me all kinds of horrible and mean things and they would write threats anonymously on my Myspace page as well. It got to the point where I had to delete my Myspace just to escape the comments.
How did cyber bullying affect you?
I can remember days when I would fake sick just to stay home from school or wait in the bathroom for nearly an hour just so I could avoid the people who I knew were texting each other about me. It was awful. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was suicidal because I never attempted anything, but I certainly thought about it a few times. Overall, it was a horrible experience and I found myself crying almost nightly.
Did people ever reach out and try to help you?
Like I said, it was a small school and many of the teachers labeled me too, so I felt like I couldn’t go to them because they would have said “you deserved it.” I did have one former teacher who would talk to me and that was nice. I think my parents knew something was wrong, and they would occasionally ask, but I would just shrug it off and say I was fine.
Eventually, it seemed that the people bullying me got bored and I developed other friends, so it stopped by junior year of high school, but it was nearly constant abuse until then.
What advice would you give to a parent who has a son or daughter getting cyber bullied?
I would tell parents that if they think something is wrong, it probably is. Casually asking once or twice probably isn’t enough. We may act like we don’t want you asking about our lives, but I know I would have loved to have my mom or dad work through my situation with me.
Also, if you find out your kid is being bullied or cyber bullied, don’t immediately explode and call the parents of the bully and the school board. Give yourself time to cool off and then consider scheduling a meeting. The embarrassment of having my classmates know my parents were getting involved would have been very tough to deal with.