Evolving social media and new technologies are changing the way the world communicates. There are no longer boundaries – one can be connected to their social circle 24 hours a day, and communicating with friends in real time.
And their bullies.
It’s a problem that affects most kids through their pre-teen and teen years.
"The last time we did a thorough examination, we found that 80 per cent of our kids had either been bullied or acted as bullies," said Marianne Noakes, executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hamilton and Burlington.
With school out students will lose access to the network of resources and supports provided by the school board to combat bullying, and parents lose the extra sets of eyes they rely on during they year to make sure their kids are safe from the terrors of bullies.
This story is the first in a series of three stories that offers advice on staying safe over the summer. Wednesday, find out why, in the eyes of the law, you might be better off making your summer backyard bash a BYOB affair.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t resources available.
Contact Hamilton helps coordinate support services for children under the age of 18 from the city.
24 hour crisis line
The Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) provides 24 hour crisis line access for troubled teens looking for someone to talk to, and provides a mobile outreach unit that consists of a mental health worker and a police officer for crisis situations between 8 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters doesn’t have a specific anti-bullying program, but does operate an eight-week "Summer Buddies" program that works in anti-bullying messages and content.
"Our programs have a duel message," said Noakes. "We try to identify signs of bullying and encourage kids to talk to people they trust, but we also try to identify and prevent bullying behavior."
"We ask the kids if they think they’ve ever been a bully and how it would make them feel if the roles were revered, demonstrating the cause and effect," she said.
Noakes also noted the importance of parents being aware of their kids’ computer activity.
"A portion of our training is talking to parents about it – we do a lot of teaching on electronic stuff,"
A recent study out of Halifax and presented in Edmonton found that youth suicides relating to cyber bullying are on the rise.
Erasebullying.ca provides several tips for parents to help identify and address cyber-bullying in the home. Here are a few of them:
What you can do to help prevent cyberbullying:
- Encourage your child to not respond to cyberbullies – whether your child is a bystander or victim, he/she should not respond. This also means encouraging them not to "like" negative comments or pages that are targeting other students, or forwarding content that is targeting others.
- If your child is a victim or witnesses cyberbullying, keep evidence. Hold onto those text messages, emails, photos, etc. as they could help identify the bully.
- If your child is being threatened, harassed or being sent illegal content, contact the police and give them the details – include usernames of the bully, and any other identifying information you can collect. They will want to see proof, so show them all the evidence you collected.
- Try to block contact from the bully by blocking their phone number, email or username (for example, Facebook allows you to block and report a user if they are engaging in activity that violates Facebook’s Terms and Conditions).
- Contact your child’s school and let them know what is happening. Even if cyberbullying is happening at home, they should be made aware of the situation.
- If the bully is identifiable and known to you, print off evidence of the attacks and contact their parents. They may be responsive, but may also be defensive. Show them proof and ask them to intervene.