Do you remember a person who impacted you when you were a child?
The other night I was with my family watching a major sporting event (the Super Bowl) on television from the comfort of my home. I might not have been tuned in to watch the big game, but more for the commercials, half-time entertainment, and a much anticipated episode of This Is Us.
In the most unlikely place, a Super Bowl ad sponsored by Kraft which featured a compilation of fan submitted photos, I was reminded of someone who impacted me as a teen. Suddenly, among footballs and macaroni cheese commercials, a fleeting snapshot of a guy I went to school with popped into my living room. It was only a quick second, but I almost choked when I recognized him. Not because of the hot wings and nachos, but because he was a very big inspiration to me when I was in the 9th grade.
There, after a few years or so, was the face of a person who impacted me when all I needed was a friend.
Suddenly, I was transported back in time, feeling all that teenage angst, when a kind upperclassmen took the time to show me some new techniques for adding detail to a few sketches in art class. Granted, at the time, he probably didn’t realize what a minute or two of his kindness meant (or that I would be teaching kids how to draw trees in the same fashion for years to come).
Looking back, as a parent and educator, I can understand the importance of his actions. It’s no secret that growing up, many of us find the teen years to be difficult, especially if we are different or stand out from our peers. For me, I was more introverted, predisposed to art and writing, and I had red hair. It was the perfect combo for being picked on and teased. Thankfully, when I was in school, I was able to escape bullies at home or in safe places like art class.
Today’s children don’t have that same luxury, because a large portion of their social interactions occur online, over social media, or via text messaging. Cyberbullying rates have tripled within the last few years, even with all of our education and awareness campaigns. With a staggering 87 percent of our boys and girls admitting that they have encountered this form of digital cruelty at one time or another.
And, we all know how prevalent cell phones, computers, gaming systems, and other technologies are in our teens lives.
For parents, teachers, and counselors this is terrifying to realize, because our teens’ beloved devices make it easier than ever to bully from any place at anytime on any given day. Cyberbullying quickly snowballs and can easily isolate a child which leads to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. As an educator, parent, and former teen these findings are alarming to me on many levels.
Thankfully, there is hope. With awareness and meaningful discussion, we can empower kids to take a stand against cyberbullying. Over time, we can teach children and teens how to put an end to digital bullying. After all, it just takes one person to make a difference so a child can rise above and fly like an eagle.
For more information and tips about ways teens and children can fight cyberbullying, please read the following infographic:
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This article was reviewed and approved by Rachel Wise, CEO of educationandbehavior.com, licensed behavior specialist and certified school psychologist.