As a shy and socially awkward child with a spiritual vocabulary, I was severely bullied as a child. Name-calling was part of my life since childhood and into adolescence. So when I was cyber-bullied following my Christian conversion in 2017, I shrugged it off as “part of life.” I prayed to forgive those who were bashing me, and spreading vicious false rumors.
Yet there’s a difference between forgiving and being passive about abuse. And make no mistake: cyber-bullying is a deadly and vicious form of abuse. In January 2018, two 12 year olds in Panama, Florida were legally charged with cyberbullying a schoolmate who committed suicide as a result of the shame their bullying created. And her story unfortunately is common these days as cyberbullies harass their victims with name-calling, defamation, and cruel social media posts and texts.
According to the Journal of Medical Association Pediatrics 2014 journal, bullying is associated with statistically higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Suicides are the second ranking cause of deaths of teenagers and young adults.
We can’t passively stand by and let ourselves and our children be bullied anymore. Lives are at stake. A 2015 survey by the Megan Meier Foundation (created in honor of Megan who committed suicide after being cyberbullied) found that 34% of students have suffered from cyberbullying, especially among girls. The statistic is almost double for overweight adolescents being cyberbullied about their weight.
Those who are cyberbullied are also more likely to be bullied in person. Studies have found that cyberbullying has negative effects on victims, such as lowering self-esteem, increasing depression, and producing feelings of powerlessness.
Children and adults are committing suicide because some people are aggressively attacking them online. The sad news is how many lives bullying and cyber-bullying has ruined. The good news is that these tragedies have led to cyberbullying laws to protect us!
5 Steps to Conquer Bullying and Cyberbullying:
- Talk to your children. If they are being bullied, they may show signs of depression, aggression, isolating, and hopelessness. Have a talk with your children about bullying, even if you have to dig deeper to get them to admit this is happening.
- Get involved! Talk to your school principal and counselor, and insist that action be taken.
- Get mental health help! If you or your child are depressed, get help from a licensed mental health worker. Depression can be a fatal disease, leading to suicide and giving up on life.
- Get legal help! Cyberbullying is illegal, and there are many lawyers who will take your case on contingency (meaning that the bully will pay for the legal costs). You can google “online reputation lawyers” and “cyberbullying attorneys” and find them worldwide. Defamation, slander, and libel are illegal.
- Speak up! If you see someone cyberbullying online, report their post and demand that it be taken down. Tell the cyberbully to knock it off, and block them.
Let’s get involved and save lives! Pray for guidance as to the action that God wants you to take. We are taught by Jesus’s example to speak up when someone is behaving in harmful ways. The U.S. Health & Human Services says that when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
Having lived through bullying my whole life, I’m taking a stand! I prayed for God to give me the strength to speak up and take action, and he gave me this strength! I’ve now taken legal steps against those who have been cyberbullying me, and I’m going to continue spreading awareness about bullying through blog posts such as this one. When we put our foot down to bullying, speak up, and punish the bullies legally, we take back our right to live peacefully.