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According to statistics, girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than boys. Why is this the case, and how do we change it?
What is cyberbullying?
There was a time that if you wanted to bully someone, you had to do it face-to-face. It was often done in between classes in the hallway, or after school. The bully risked the chance of being seen by school staff and being suspended from school.
That is no longer the case. Now, all a bully needs is a digital device, and they can be as cruel as they wish. That is exactly what cyberbullying is- using a laptop, phone, or tablet to bully someone. And, worse, schools have ignored it too often as it is carried out online instead of on school property. This has allowed too many to get away with it.
Cyberbullies might do anything from post pictures with photo-shopped pictures of their victim to sharing really personal information to name-calling. Where bullying once did not spread past a group of friends or, at most, outside of a school, it can now spread all over the world to anyone else with a digital device. The humiliation of cyberbullying can bring massive emotional harm to its victims.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, or the NCES, only 7% of boys report being cyberbullied as opposed to 21% of girls. That is a pretty vast difference. It is also reported that most of these girls are bullied by other girls.
Why is this the case?
There are no reports about girl cyberbullying causes- only that they are three times more likely to be cyberbullied. However, there are some characteristics of females that may contribute.
1. Girls tend to show their emotions more.
Showing your emotions is not a bad thing, but it can make young girls a target. By opening up and sharing thoughts and feelings, so-called “mean girls” are given ammunition.
2. Girls often judge others according to their own insecurities.
It has been said that people put others down to make themselves feel better. This is true and seems to show itself more in preteen and teen girls than anyone else. Though there may be many reasons for this, a common cause of insecurity in young girls is the unrealistic body images that the media portrays as desirable. As natural people do not fit these “perfect” images, girls find themselves lacking. Instead of dealing with their own insecurities, some young ladies find it easier to point out the flaws in their peers, taking attention away from their own.
3. Girls are more verbal.
More often than not, girls will speak their minds long before boys. Speaking and acting out on social media is the perfect avenue for them to do so, even when that means hurting someone else’s feelings.
4. Girls tend to show more sensitivity about their looks and fitting in.
It is not that boys are never concerned with their looks or that they do not want to fit in. They often do, too. However, girls are quicker to show their pain concerning these issues than boys, possibly because boys have been taught that must be tough.
What’s the solution?
One thing is certain- sitting back and hoping it will go away is not working. Neither is schools refusing to take an active role in the fight against it. Cyberbullying is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. It is reported that students who experience bullying and cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not.
That is a depressing and scary thought, as suicide is already one of the top causes of teen deaths. Allowing that number to double simply cannot happen, but stopping it means that everyone involved with children must take a more active role. This includes family, the school systems, even social media companies.
– Parents need to speak with their children and monitor online activities. They may say they hate you for it, but better that than burying your child. It is normal to try to give your children space- they need it to grow. Monitoring their activity does not mean raiding their accounts and private messages every day. However, you can make rules about their social media usage, including that they must have you as a friend on their account. This way, you can see if anything is going on that should not be.
– School systems are beginning to induce punishments and cyberbullying education. These programs need to remain in place and constantly improve.
– Social media companies should start freezing or deleting accounts of those who bully others on their platforms. If they show that cyberbullying will not be tolerated, it should deter a lot of the behavior since preteens and teens feel that they must have social media accounts.
– It would also be very helpful to have more support groups that victims of cyberbullying can reach out to. Perhaps it would save some precious lives if they could speak to people who understand what they are dealing with.
Cyberbullying is a terrible experience for both boys and girls, though it is clear that girls seem to be the easier target. As parents, we have to fight for our children against things that threaten to harm them. In this day and age, one of the biggest threats is cyberbullying. Let us fight for our children’s right to be safe online.