Inclusivity plays a key role in the functionality of a classroom, which can affect a student’s long-term success. Throughout my sessions, I continue to come across an overwhelming number of children who are experiencing bullying, particularly within minority populations. Some of these groups include those with disabilities, racial minority groups, and LGBTQ populations. Amongst minority groups, there can be an increase in vulnerability that leads to additional difficulties faced, in comparison to that of their peers.
It is important that we aim to understand the destructiveness of bullying both on a mental and physical level, in order to comprehend the struggles of youth minority groups. In a modern society, it is important to note that bullying does not only occur in a classroom setting, rather it occurs in the very places we would like to consider safe spaces. Youth today spend a majority of their free time on their phone while at home, and it is through social media platforms, that bullies can target their victims without boundaries. The idea of sending messages from a distance can further increase their hostility, opening up to the realm of cyberbullying. Problems with Cyberbullying
As we enter the world of cyberbullying, the repercussions faced seem much greater. Aside from the emotional distress, embarrassment, decrease in self-esteem, and fear that one can endure, parents often dismiss these experiences, feeling as though one can simply deactivate their account or log off. The problem is however, that hundreds of other people now have access to the same content. When content becomes widespread, feelings are exacerbated and individuals often feel like they will never escape this experience. As a result, we begin to see an increase in depressive and anxious symptoms.
I have had many students discuss the social media pages that they have been exposed to, that are mainly targeted towards minority groups. Pages are degrading, humiliating, and do not shy away from posting photos of their targets. These platforms are then flooded with comments from other students who contribute to the cyberbullying cycle. How to Help
There are many ways in which we can help fight bullying/cyberbullying, though awareness is our first step in understanding the detriment it can cause.
Supervision – Monitor your child’s online activity. Remember to remain calm and alert. You may feel as though restricting phone access is beneficial, though prohibition may lead to worse outcomes is some cases.
Open communication – It can be hard to understand certain cyberbullying attacks, therefore it is important to have continuous discussions with your children about their experiences. We can also teach our children the detriment of bullying/cyberbullying, as it is unacceptable. Children should also be aware of resources and individuals who are available to help if needed.
Be supportive and responsive – Students should feel validated through their experiences, and know that when they approach you with their concerns, you can help play a role in taking the next step to address the issue.
Build safe environments – Continue to inform schools of bullying incidents as they occur, in order to address issues as soon as possible. Understand that the longer it continues, the worse implications may be.
Speak to a mental health professional - The anonymity of cyberbullying can result in highly damaging mental health effects, therefore if you feel more help is required, reach out to a mental health professional.