Barbadian adults are being accused of actively participating in a growing culture of cyberbullying that is slipping “under the radar” and causing tremendous distress to citizens, particularly in the younger segments of the society.
And, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development Shawn Clarke is hoping law enforcement; parents and other right-thinking adults will do their part to ensure that no child resorts to self-harm as a result of the pressures of cyberbullying.
The certified bullying consultant and Caribbean representative for the International Bullying Prevention Association was reacting to the tirade of online taunts that left 11-year-old Keishawn Thomas so distraught and embarrassed that he believed he no longer wanted to live.
According to Clarke, parents are increasingly approaching Supreme Counselling for assistance with addressing instances of online bullying, which, according to the consultant, is the most poorly addressed and most difficult form of bullying to trace.
“Cyberbullying is on the rise and we need to teach our young children that as soon as I press ‘LOL’ or press the share button and send it off to my friends, the pain that it might cause,” said Clarke, who admitted that verbal forms of bullying are still most common.
“Although it is not the most prevalent, it is the most difficult to trace. At school, I can complain about someone taking away my money or slapping me around my head, but with cyberbullying, you really have no idea where the message is generated.
“We have many examples in the US where young people commit suicide regularly because of cyber bullying . . . and when the parents find the suicide notes, it always has to do with comments that were made online. It can become that way here as well, but we really need to look at prevention rather than cure,” the bullying consultant suggested.
Turning his attention to this week’s incident, where a minor grammatical error was used to ridicule 11-year-old Keishawn, Clarke accused adults of falling short of their responsibility to protect the country’s most vulnerable and condemned those who encouraged him to “toughen up”.
“If this was started by his peers, it may have been a bit easier than if it was started by the adult population. But the adults – the people that he would have expected to know better and protect him, were the ones out there pushing this and making ‘mock sport’,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
“One of the things we need to do is to educate our adults about what bullying really is. When I do my sessions with Parent Teacher Associations and I let them know about the full extent of bullying, I realize that they really don’t understand what constitutes bullying, and the types of bullying that you can get involved in,” he suggested.
Clarke stressed: “When we think about how advanced technology is today, there would have to be things that law enforcement can do, different mechanisms and machinery that can be put in place to trace the perpetrators of this cyber bullying.
“It will take some time, but even outside of law enforcement, we need to educate the public and parents to be able to say to the children not to get involved in it.”