Root Causes of the Cyberbullying Increase
Research reveals that social media platforms tend to give the perception that individuals, particularly younger people, have the freedom to be mean spirited and/or exhibit mean behavior to others without fear of any kind of accountability or action taken against them. What’s most concerning is that cyberbullying has doubled in the past 10 years. This generation (anyone born after 1995) significantly interacts with technology, which has increased the access and opportunity for children to not only use it for good but also for negative purposes.
Schools and educators are trying to educate families and young people on the particulars of electronic aggression and cyberbullying. Along with school staff encouraging awareness on this issue, there have been advances in both technology and legal measures taken to help combat this growing epidemic.
Although more methods are being introduced to combat this issue, we have still seen an increase in the number of cyberbullying incidents. Schools are taking the problem more seriously, but they are under utilizing the most effective tool to combat cyberbullying: young people/students themselves. Schools can sometime emphasize the academic aspect of the cyberbullying phenomenon and focus less on the social and emotional development of young people. As a result, there has seemingly been a decrease in empathy in teenagers and an increase in bystanderism. It is imperative to empower young people to bolster them to take action and get involved.
How to Encourage Students to Make a Difference
It is important to listen to young people and provide meaningful opportunities for students and schools to participate in decision making and problem solving with authority figures.
Young people, particularly adolescents, are driven by three primary developmental needs:
- Hunger and need for purpose in their lives
- A sense of power
- A need to truly feel connected to a positive place
Knowing and satisfying these needs is integral in the fight against cyberbullying. In order to utilize students in an effective manner, it is important to identify their social leaders, train them and make sure schools believe that young people are not just consumers, but also contributors. Only when that occurs will social norms begin to shift in a positive direction.