A case of cyberbullying in Canada ended in tragedy when 15-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide yesterday (Oct. 11). Her story has again made cyberbullying a prominent issue, with a Facebook memorial page for Todd already garnering more than 100,000 likes in just 12 hours.
Todd’s suicide follows other cyberbullying instances over the past few years that ended with the victims taking their own lives. In the wake of events like these, both parents and kids question what they should do.
Cyberbullying can take many forms, including Facebook taunts, cruel text messages, or the posting of embarrassing YouTube videos. The bullying most often happens in online networks where kids congregate, like Facebook and YouTube, but also social-gaming sites and other virtual spaces.
Studies differ on how rampant cyberbullying is. A 2011 study from the Pew Center for Internet and American life reported that 88 percent of kids ages 12 to 18 said they, “ have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site.”
On the other hand, a 2012 study by psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, found that only 5 percent of U.S. students reported that they had been the targets of cyberbullying.
Regardless of how common the phenomenon has become, most would agree that the death of any child as a result of bullying means that everyone needs to be aware of the issue.
For parents, it can be hard to figure out when cyberbullying has occurred. Since kids often don’t tell Mom and Dad about bullying, parents should watch for these signs from their children:
- They ask to have a social-media or online account shut down
- They suddenly avoid formerly enjoyable social situations
- They act frustrated and impatient, or simply act out more
[SEE ALSO: Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? Here's How to Tell ]
This week, pop star Justin Bieber released an anti-cyberbullying video to help bring awareness to the topic and provide suggestions about how kids can cope. In the video, he interviews a girl who was cyberbullied in middle school and contemplated killing herself. The girl offers advice, such as getting offline and asking for help.
The video was produced as part of anti-cyberbullying awareness efforts by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office in Long Island, New York. Bieber participated in the video as part of a plea deal settling misdemeanor charges against his manager resulting from a mall frenzy in 2009.