Cyber Monday Stats and Cyberbullying Facts: Thoughts on Good and Bad Online Behavior

Image of person typing on a computer.Experts estimate that retail sales increased from $1.3 billion on Cyber Monday last year to $2 billion on Cyber Monday this year. Perhaps what’s most interesting about this statistic is not the dollar amount, per se, but rather the sheer amount of good online behavior the numbers represent.

Let’s consider some statistics for a moment. The National Retail Federation estimated that more than 129 million people—nearly 41% of all U.S. citizens—would shop on Cyber Monday this year. Many of those people were shopping with the purpose of purchasing holiday gifts for family and friends. With this in mind, it’s hard to identify another day on the calendar where so many people are doing altruistic, positive things online.

Unfortunately, there is no Cyber Monday style day when it comes to preventing cyberbullying. As we noted in a recent post, there is an International STAND UP to Bullying Day dedicated to bullying awareness and prevention; however, participants generally recognize that day with live demonstrations, workshops, and so forth. There is no day in which teens and adults go online in a coordinated way to stand up for the 42% of students who have experienced at least one instance of being harassed or bullied online.

Perhaps a day should be dedicated to online activities around cyberbullying prevention. Imagine a day in which teenagers everywhere were sending nothing but positive texts, tweets, and instant messages. Imagine the online and offline goodwill that could be generated from a day dedicated to sending positive, affirming messages to classmates and friends. Imagine the lessons that young people might learn about how hurtful words can be.

A day like this would likely never rival Cyber Monday in terms of cultural impact, but it might make a measurable difference in the lives of young people.

 

Visit our Resource Center for helpful online bullying resources.

 

International Bullying Awareness Events Prove That Bullying Is a Problem Everywhere

Image of people participating in International STAND UP to Bullying Day activities.While Americans celebrated the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday last week, people in other countries celebrated a holiday of a different sort: a day dedicated to confronting the problem of bullying.

The 2012 International STAND UP to Bullying Day was held on Friday, November 23. On International STAND UP to Bullying Day, schools around the world celebrated by wearing special pink STAND UP t-shirts and hosting anti-bullying programs.

The pink shirts are notable because of how the STAND UP day came about. In 2007, two high school students in Nova Scotia decided to take action when they heard about a younger classmate who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. With about $20, they purchased dozens of pink t-shirts for their classmates. The next day, after the two boys sent out text messages encouraging classmates to wear pink to school, hundreds of students showed up wearing pink. The phenomenon then became something of a movement, spreading first to more than 60 schools in Nova Scotia, and then all over the world when news of the events went viral on the Internet.

The Nova Scotia story is notable for many reasons, but perhaps the most important takeaway is that bullying is not a problem unique to America. The American news media’s intense scrutiny of bullying over the past few years might lead some U.S. citizens to believe that bullying is some sort of American-bred scourge. However, students around the world—not to mention teachers and administrators—become the victims of bullying and cyberbullying every day.

When we consider that bullying occurs in so many different places around the world, we must face the sad truth that all human beings have the capacity to humiliate, ridicule, or abuse others. We must realize, for example, that cyberbullying is not about malicious postings on Facebook or inappropriate text messages, per se; it is fundamentally about cruel and inhumane behavior that needs to be addressed. Only when such behavior is openly discussed can it be stopped—and, as many CyberBully Hotline customers have discovered, an anonymous communication program may be just what is needed to help students, parents, and faculty members bring these concerns to light.

Thanks to Black Friday shopping and family traditions, most Americans will probably never celebrate this special day on the fourth Friday of November. However, bullying awareness and prevention efforts can be implemented at any time of the year, and American students and educators should follow the example of their international counterparts.

Addressing the Problems Exposed by Teen Suicide

Photo of two teens mourning the loss of a peer who died from suicide.The suicide of a teenager can devastate a school community, but the loss of a teen to suicide can incite more than just sadness and shock. Sadly, in some cases, teen suicide can open up other wounds in the school community.

A recent rash of teen suicides in a rural Missouri community may illustrate this point. Over the past seven weeks, three students at St. Clair High School in St. Clair, Missouri have died from suicide. Students from both genders and three different grades have taken their lives. The most recent death occurred just a few days before this blog post was published.

A recent forum hosted by St. Clair school administrators was created in the hopes of offering information and hope to the St. Clair High School community. However, despite administrators’ careful discussion about the deaths and a presentation from a mental health expert, local media sources reported that some parents angrily expressed concerns about bullying in the school community. These parents wondered aloud whether school problems with bullying might have been a contributing factor in the deaths of the students.

Of course, it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes that led to the deceased students’ suicides. But the concerns voiced by the upset parents raise important questions. Is bullying a problem in the district? If so, how is that behavior affecting the students and the school’s culture? Are administrators aware of all incidents of bullying, and are incidents of bullying being addressed by the administrators?

Image displaying webinar presentation on bullying and teen suicide prevention.Suicide prevention expert Dr. Scott Poland spoke about the connection between bullying and suicide in our recent teen suicide prevention webinar. His presentation noted that most studies on this issue “reported positive associations between all bullying types and suicidal risks.”

Dr. Poland also noted in the webinar that many students who have suicidal thoughts are ambivalent about suicide. In one moment, they may want to die, but a positive event a few minutes later (i.e. getting a good grade or reconciling with a friend) may bring them back up again. This idea reminds us that proactive resolution of problems may be critical to preventing depression and other troubling thoughts in teens. Put simply, you can never predict what will finally drive a troubled teen over the edge.

Dr. Poland further noted that students who have suicidal thoughts often tell others well before they act on their urges. Most often, peers of teens who died by suicide say they didn’t take steps to get help for their friend because they thought the friend was “just joking.” Unfortunately, in this day and age where teens seem to be so fragile, every mention of suicide must be taken seriously. Programs like the CyberBully Hotline can help friends speak out and give a tip to a school administrator that their buddy might need help.

Perhaps the suicides in the St. Clair High School community couldn’t have been prevented. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. But the St. Clair School District, like every other district, can take steps to actively address problems in the student body and help those who are hurting. Let’s hope that another teen doesn’t have to die before this wounded community can find healing.

Threat of Legal Action Powerful Tool Against Cyberbullying

By Paul Langhorst             November 6, 2012

A very moving post this morning by Laura Shumaker, regarding her autistic son’s encounter with a “mean text” sent by an unknown individual, serves as a reminder that the threat of legal action, is often a good way to stop cyberbullying incidents. Laura Shumaker, is a writer and autism advocate.

In this incident, her 26-year old autistic son, Mathew, received a text that read, “U are a loser. U have no friends.” This caused Mathew to become fearful and triggered him to call 911, followed by a panicked call to Laura. example of cyberbullying message

According to Laura, Mathew’s autism makes it a struggle to keep friends. Mathew has a tendency to ask repetitive questions and make repetitive overtures to “hang” out with people he may accidentally call or encounter. In this case, the mean texter had been previously called by Mathew and Mathew’s repeated attempts to connect may have caused the texter to lash out in frustration.

The genius in Laura’s response to the texter was that she threatened to call the police if the texter sent any further messages.  While Laura may have made this threat without actually knowing the law in this case, her actions and the results are a reminder that the transmission of intimidating or harassing messages via electronic means (a.k.a “cyber bullying”) is now illegal in most states.  Laura’s reply triggered an immediate apology by the texter, which is rare and commendable on the part of the texter. The texter likely did not know of Mathew’s autism, but realized he/she had crossed a line with their response.

This is a good lesson to parents and school administrators to bring the threat of legal action to the table when dealing with cyberbullying incidents. Before doing so it is important to know your state’s cyberbullying law and the good folks at www.stopbullying.gov make this easy with their website to look up bullying laws by state. Often times when the threat of police or legal action is brought into the discussion, the bullying or unwanted behavior stops.

My discussions with SRO officers supports this. At a recent roundtable event, Missouri SRO’s shared that the most effective tool they have is the law. When a bullying or harassment incident reaches them, they counsel both victim and bully, explaining how the behavior is breaking the law and their action’s legal consequences.

Most kids probably don’t know that their bullying behavior is actually illegal in most states, but adults should, and those that are charged with protecting the welfare of a child, whether parent or teacher, should use the law to the fullest extent to prevent and stop cyberbullying.