No Summer Break for NH Cyber Bullies
MANCHESTER, N.H. – It once happened mostly in schoolyards, but now bullies also launch their attacks on the Web - and those attacks can intensify during the summer break.
Traci Belanger is a licensed mental health clinician in New England. She says with one click, information can go to hundreds of thousands of people.
She says bullying on the Web is just as harmful as the aggression that used to be witnessed by only a handful of people during adolescent years.
"We used to think of bullying, it would happen at school, perhaps on the way to school," she says. "But this can be 24-7 for them, if they don't even have to be on the computer anymore; they can just be on their cell phone."
According to results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than 18 percent of New Hampshire high-school students said they experienced cyberbullying in 2015.
Ninth graders, female and Hispanic students were the most likely report being bullied through texting or e-mail, in chat rooms, through instant messaging, or on websites.
Members of the LGBTQ community are also at high risk from cyber bullying, and help is available by phone at 800-399-PEER. And for anyone being bullied and having thoughts about taking their own life, the suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-TALK.
New Hampshire has a bullying law which requires schools to report all incidences, but Belanger warns parents to be on guard during the summer months. She says cyber bullies take a variety of approaches, but these usually involve repeated attempts to harm someone.
"So, we're talking about teasing, threatening, social exclusion, spreading rumors, sexting, disruption of other people's relationships; someone starting a fight between two of their friends," she explains.
She says parents can reduce the danger by putting boundaries on how much of kids' time is spent online. She adds for the advice to be meaningful, parents may also have to change some habits.
"Sometimes, we have a parent who will say, 'Hey, you have to put your phone down,' and yet, they don't put their own phone down," Belanger notes. "So, set up a modeling situation, where the parent says, 'You know what? None of us are going to pick up our phone, including me.'"