When a new student begins their academic career at Fairmont, we naturally are interested in where they came from, their past school experiences, and why they chose to make a change in school settings. It is often with shock and heartbreak we hear that a fair amount of students leave their prior school due to prolonged and relentless bullying towards them. According to statistics from nobully.org, about 20% of students experience bullying within a school year and even more witness bullying situations.
While it used to be that this detrimental type of behavior was only exhibited when in person, the fact that most children now have a smartphone means that bullying can now take place at any time and in any place. Cyberbullying – bullying which takes place over digital devices – has become one of the most devastating means by which children are being targeted and traumatized.
The effects of unkind and harassing behaviors – regardless of the method of delivery – can be lifelong as a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem and overall valuing of self is challenged and diminished. School performance also suffers as children and teens find it difficult to concentrate and actively engage in class and within the school environment once they feel ostracized and ridiculed. Fairmont takes bullying seriously as we actively engage with all stakeholders of our community to keep a pulse on bullying behaviors, educate on the consequences to bullying and create a structure on campus to eradicate bullying when we see it.
The Fairmont Code represents our social vision which guides the campuses towards sustaining the overall climate and culture which is one of positivity and inclusiveness. The goal of our atmosphere at Fairmont is that every student is accepted for who they are. We expect not only students, but staff, faculty and parents to work towards this common goal and adhere to the Code of modeling exemplary character. Our Education Department develops training for staff to learn intervention techniques which thwart and eradicate bullying and cyberbullying as well as leverage empathy amongst all in our community. Student assemblies (such as the BMX “No Hate Tour”), parent information session (like our recently-hosted “Parenting in a Digital World” seminar), and schoolwide exercises on social emotional learning keep children and teens mindful of these vital concepts in order to keep campuses physically and emotionally safe so learning can take place.
We believe our efforts have been fruitful. When new students walk onto a Fairmont campus, they are greeted with a smile and engaging and inquisitive conversation. Select groups of students like our ASB, Peace Ambassadors and Student Mentors are eager to assist a student who is feeling alone or not connected to the school social environment. Fairmont’s Administration actively monitors digital bullying behaviors when alerted and takes quick action to intervene.
Should anyone at Fairmont have a concern about cyberbullying (or any other bullying behavior), there are many places to reach out for support on each campus. A trusted adult can include a coach, teacher, counselor or Head of School. We encourage a dialogue about any concerning situation so we can tend to the issue quickly and privately.
Eradicating cyberbullying in a school setting is no easy task; it takes constant discussion, revising of policy, and continual education of our school population. Fairmont is absolutely dedicated to this task as we want to be the school students choose to attend to find emotional peace, social acceptance and kindness, so they are free to grow, learn about themselves, and learn.
As parents and guardians, you are positioned to play a pivotal role in this effort, so you need to be armed with an understanding of the tell-tale signs of cyberbullying in order to help nip it in the bud.
More About Cyberbullying – An FAQ:
What is cyberbullying?
StopBullying.gov defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.”
How prevalent is cyberbullying?
Research shows that 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 5 girls are cyberbullied.
What are the most common places where cyberbullying occurs?
This form of harassment shows up through a multitude of platforms, making it kids who are targeted feel like it’s difficult to escape:
- Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
- Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
- Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
- Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
- Online gaming communities
Is online bullying more damaging than bullying which takes place in person?
Any form of bullying has the potential to do tremendous harm. However, what makes online harassment particularly treacherous is that the bully’s actions are visible to countless people and can show up any place in the world, 24/7. It also comes along with a permanent digital footprint, meaning that the victim may feel like there is no way out.
What are some signs that a child is being cyberbullied?
There are many red flags to be on the lookout for:
- Suddenly stops using devices
- Becomes secretive about what they’re doing on their devices (e.g., hides or changes their screen when you walk by)
- Gets agitated after being online or using their phone
- Doesn’t want to go to school
- Grades start suffering
- Shys away taking part in their regular extra-curricular activities
- Wants to stay home
- Withdraws from family and friends
- Becomes moody, easily upset
- Has trouble sleeping
- Doesn’t want to eat/has unexplained weight loss
- Feels poorly – headaches, stomachaches, etc.
If your child starts to exhibit these behaviors, it’s time for you or someone else they trust to sit down and have an honest, calm, and supportive conversation with them. There are plenty of practical ways to address cyberbullying and people who can help guide you (such as your school’s counselor), but your first priority is to make sure your child feels safe and protected.