With more kids and teens using smartphones and logging on to social media networks, the prevalence of cyberbullying has increased. A 2011 survey found 16 percent of high schoolers were bullied online or through electronic communication, Stopbullying.gov – a website run through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – reported. Younger students, including those in middle school and junior high, also experience cyberbullying.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month – a campaign aimed at spreading awareness of bullying prevention. Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights' (PACER) National Bullying Prevention Center started the campaign in 2006, initially as a week-long event. The event now spans across the month.
"The culture of bullying won't end until people across the country take action and show kids that they care," Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, said on the organization's website. "National Bullying Prevention Month is a great opportunity to do that. This is a very real and painful issue that kids are facing but they don't have to face it alone. Bullying can be prevented if we all work together to change the culture."
Impacts of Cyberbullying
The Internet is now a main channel for bullying, and is now a part of the anti-bullying month of October. It's an important topic to focus on and spread awareness on, as cyberbullying can have major impacts on a child's life. For example, those who are cyberbullied are more likely to be unwilling to attend school or skip class altogether, receive poor grades or experience in-person bullying, Stopbullying.gov reported. These victims can also be more likely to have health problems, use drugs or alcohol and have low self-esteem, the federal website stated.
This type of bullying, which can take place over text messages or on social media sites, has also been linked to suicides among teenagers – a major reason why there needs to be a federal bullying law created, according to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson. Tricia Norman, mother of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick who killed herself after she was relentlessly bullied online, supports the legislation, First Coast News reported.
"I want other senators to realize this is serious, this needs to happen not just [in] Florida, but everywhere," she said.
Students themselves are also pushing for anti-bullying laws, which could gain more attention during National Bullying Prevention Month in October. For example, students in South Dakota – one of 11 states without an anti-bullying law, recently sent a drafted cyberbullying bill to state lawmakers.
"This law will create a more positive atmosphere and raise awareness," Dennis Smith, executive director for the South Dakota Board of Regents Student Federation, told University of South Dakota's student-run newspaper The Volante. "It would help enforce (harassment) laws and make a stricter control of the laws that are already in place."
Alex Flores is a product marketing manager at IDentity Theft 911.
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