School’s Out for Summer but STOPit is Always Here to Help
Resources To Fight The Summertime Bullies and Blues
Summer break offers students a welcome relief from homework, the lunchroom, and cramming for tests. But too many kids discover that even though they’re on break from school, that doesn’t mean that the threat of being bullied disappears— because bullying never goes on vacation.
In fact, summertime presents the perfect opportunity for an uptick in cyberbullying as kids spend even more time on social media than they do during the school year, according to a study by McAfee. Anyone who’s walked by a kid lying on a couch glued to a smartphone in July can attest that -- all too often -- tuning into social media is an activity favored over, say, going outside to play with a friend or opening up a book.
In 2015, a study by Common Sense Media found that teens spend on average nine hours — about one third of their day — using media like online video and music, and kids 8-12 aren’t far behind, averaging about 6 hours a day.
“I am probably on my phone 10 hours a day,” Santi Potočnik Senarighi, a 16-year-old eleventh grader in Denver, told TIME. Even when he’s not actively using his phone, Santi says it’s always with him, and he never considers taking a break. “This is part of my life and part of my work, and [that] means I need to be in constant contact.”
There is increasing tension between the arguments that young people’s hyperfocus on social media is just a new reality in our increasingly technocentric world, versus the warnings against spending too much time in the digital realm. In addition to all the standard apps, smartphones and tablets come loaded with a host of consequences for overuse, including increased odds of being cyberbullied and suffering from depression.
“If left unchecked, your child's exposure to cyberbullying will only increase with their mobile device usage,” observed CyberSafetyCop, who noted that YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (in that order) are the apps where kids were spending the most time when on their devices.
The reality is, social media apps provide the perfect opportunity for cyberbullying, giving tormentors a host of virtual ways to taunt and harass their victims and make them feel excluded. Really, who needs the classroom when you can terrorize someone from the comfort of your family room?
According to the 2014 McAfee study, “Teens and the Screen,” 87 percent of kids reported having witnessed cyberbullying — a significant increase from the 27 percent who reported cyberbullying the year before. While the study reveals cyberbullying represents a serious problem for youth, the most troubling aspect was that the survey found 24 percent of youth wouldn’t even know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.
What does cyberbullying look like?
Cyberbullying is often an extension of the harassment many kids experience during the school day transferred to a variety of online platforms, like social media, texting, chats, forums and pictures that can cause emotional harm.
Studies find that kids who are bullied during school hours are usually the ones targeted online — usually because they’re perceived to be somehow “different” — and that aggressors follow suit. Unfortunately, the pervasive, ubiquitous nature of our digital world enables bullying to travel beyond the classroom walls and school yard fence right into the hands of vulnerable young people wherever they are.
Too often, for too many young people, cyberbullying means there’s no safe space, anywhere, anytime.
In its “2018 Guide to Cyberbullying Awareness,” Tulane University breaks down some important facts about cyberbullying:
- Often takes many forms (social media, texting, instant messaging)
- Can be public or private
- Few parents and educators see cyberbullying in action
- Cyberbullies may act alone or in groups
- Cyberbullies may act anonymously (Victim never knows who exactly is targeting them.)
- Because it’s online, cyberbullies can follow their victims wherever they go
When you analyze the phenomenon by gender, boys tend to carry out their bullying in person and physical while girls are two times more likely to be the victim of cyberbullies who like to undermine a victim’s social status or relationships. Interestingly, many victims’ tormentors are friends or former dating partners, according to researcher published by the American Sociological Association.
Consequences multiply - the depressing effects of cyberbullying
Sunny days can be dark for children suffering from cyberbullying and the depression and anxiety that comes with it. Many studies support just how damaging online harassment can be, especially for girls.
In her deep dive into how the ubiquity of smartphone use is affecting a whole generation — “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” — Jean Twenge writes in The Atlantic, “Social media gives middle- and high-school girls a platform on which to carry out the style of aggression they favor, ostracizing and excluding other girls around the clock.”
Cyberbullying and depression “go hand-in-hand,” according to a report in Scientific American. The research also found that the more cyberbullying a teen experienced, the more severe his or her symptoms of depression.
And perhaps scariest of all is that teens usually opt to suffer cyberbullying in silence. "Kids really are hesitant to tell anyone when cyberbullying occurs," Michele Hamm, a researcher in pediatrics at the University of Alberta, told Scientific American. "There seems to be a common fear that if they tell their parents, for example, they'll lose their Internet access."
During summer break, it’s critical that parents monitor their kids’ online activity for possible cyberbullying and be on the lookout for signs of depression and/or suicidal ideation.
“Until they have the skills, parents need to monitor and coach kids online” CyberSafetyCop advised. “Start early and be consistent and they will gain their communication chops sooner than later.”
Giving kids tools to stay safe
We wouldn’t send our kids off to summer camp without sunscreen or a toothbrush, but what do we do about keeping them safe from bullying during the summer months?
The most important thing we can do for our children is to empower them to speak up when they experience or witness abusive and intimidating behavior. Summer camps can arm campers with reporting apps, like STOPit, which allow them to report bullying anonymously with the click of a button. Camp administrators can determine who receives those reports, like counselors, or they can opt for STOPit’s 24-7 Incident Monitoring Service (IMS), which is staffed by trained operators 24 hours a day to review inbound messages and manage a tip line.
Many school districts across the country are adopting reporting tools like STOPit, which give students a quick and powerful tool to alert administrators to inappropriate behavior. For kids who attend schools that have adopted the STOPit app, even though the reporting feature is disabled while school is out of session, kids still have access to important resources loaded onto the app.
With STOPit they are never without a means to reach out for help. Resources include:
- Crisis Call Center Numbers
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Local Police Phone Number
Cyberbullying is a potential threat anytime our kids are on their phone. Now, thanks to STOPit, our kids also have the power to easily -- anonymously -- stop this threat in its tracks -- preventing ongoing bullying of themselves and others.
To learn more about how STOPit can benefit your school or camp organization, contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 855-999-0932. We’ll be happy to talk with you about how you can empower kids to speak up against all forms of inappropriate and abusive behavior and give them the resources they need to get help.