Jennifer Lewerenz | Oct 20, 2020 AT 11:26 am
(KNSI) – October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and with more local school districts moving to distance learning, all that screen time has one group worried about an increase in online bullying.
Julie Hertzog of PACER’s Bullying Prevention Center says physical bullying is visible, and adults can see what’s happening. That’s not so for online harassment.
“A student can be sitting in a classroom with their phone, and maybe they just got a text message from a group of kids saying, ‘You’re such a loser. Nobody wants you here.’ And they pick up that phone and they read it – and no other adult knows that that just happened.”
Whether it’s online or in person, Hertzog says bullying not only has short-term effects on a student’s well-being, it can have long-term implications, too, including chronic depression and substance abuse. In some cases, she says the results can be tragic.
“Unfortunately, we do hear a lot about young people still in the situations where they have suicide ideation, or are taking their lives.”
She says if a child is trying to hide a bullying problem, parents can still pick up on what’s happening by noticing changes in behavior, even if they’re subtle. Hertzog says parents need a delicate approach since kids might not use the word “bullying” to describe what’s happening, and they can be reluctant to provide details. She says it’s important for parents to work on a solution with their child.
Last year’s Minnesota student survey found 9-percent of 11th graders reported being the target of cyber-bullying weekly. It was 14-percent for 5th graders.
Wednesday is PACER’s annual Unity Day, which promotes kindness and inclusion. People are encouraged to raise awareness by wearing the color orange or include it in their social media posts.