Preventing Cyberbullying “Right from the Start”

Bullying, in particular, cyberbullying, has become the new nightmare of many a parent living in the digital age. What is it and what can we do about it?

Developing Media Literacy

When we talk about the development of media literacy, there is one particularly important aspect that we must not forget – the education of children on cyberbullying. The devastating consequences have been seen in the media over the years and these are only a handful of the cases that have been reported:

  • 12-year-old Rececca Sedwick had been brutally cyberbullied by classmates before taking her own life. In the days leading up to her death, she was sent online messages that read “Why aren’t you dead?” “Youshould die.” “Wait a minute, why are you still alive?” “Go kill yourself.”
  • Hannah Smith was 14 when she hanged herself after being harassed about her looks on the website
  • 15-year-old Jordan Lewis committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, after being cruelly taunted by classmates online and off.

What is Cyberbullying?

Firstly, what is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying involves using technology, like cell phones and the Internet, to bully or harass another person. It affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis and can take any number of forms:

  • Sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone
  • Spreading rumors online or through texts
  • Posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages
  • Stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages
  • Pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person
  • Taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the Internet
  • Sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person

Source: Bullying Statistics


Image Source: No Bullying

The Statistics

Device usage among young children:

  • Cell phones, tablets and other digital devices have become part of the daily lives of young children. By grade three, 18 to 20% of children report they have their own cell phone (Englander, 2011).
  • 38% of children under the age of two are now using smartphones, tablets and e-readers at the same rate as children eight and under were two years ago (Common Sense Media, 2013).
  • Among five- to eight-year-olds, mobile media usage has risen from 52% to 83% (Common Sense Media, 2013).
  • In some areas, kindergartners are issued tablets on the first day of school.

Statistics about online among teens and tweens from Pew Internet:

  • Fully 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites.
  • 88% of social media-using teens have witnessed other people be mean or cruel on social network sites. 12% say they witnessed cruel behavior “frequently.”
  • 19% of teens reported being bullied in the past year either in person, online, by text, or by phone.

Cyberbullying Education

With everyone from politicians to celebrities using harassment and name-calling online, it has become even more important to lay the groundwork for children to develop both safe and responsible digital citizenship skills. Cyberbullying reaches its highest level in middle school. Starting early to change the tendency of cruelty online among adolescents is critical. Right from the Start in the Digital Age is an FHI 360 National Initiative that aims to prevent and protect children from cyberbullying and to create responsible and safe digital citizens from a young age.

 “Young children are tech savvy but not necessarily media literate. They might know how to use the device but they don’t truly understand its purpose and power. The challenge for parents and educators is how to convey abstract concepts of safety, permanence and privacy in terms that young children can understand.” – Barbara Sprung, Co-Director, Educational Equity at FHI 360.

Right from the Start in the Digital Age

Right from the Start in the Digital Age has released a position paper, as well as downloadable curricula activities to help parents and teachers teach children to become good digital citizens.


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