More than one in five (20.8%) students report being bullied in the US every year. Reports also estimate that only 36% of kids who are bullied actually report it, so the figures are probably much higher.
Although there is often support from teachers, family, and school therapists, many students choose to seek advice on how to deal with these situations online. We took a look at online searches for terms related to bully prevention, cyberbullying and child psychology to gain insight on how many searches are being made and when they’re at their highest, with insight from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
“How to stop bullying”
Online searches for the phrase “how to stop bullying” saw an annual high over the September to October period, peaking at 4,400 per month. These peak volumes correlate with the time many children are returning to school after summer break, suggesting many students are looking to the Internet for advice and support. Bailey Lundgren from PACER comments on why this time of year can be particularly testing for students:
“For many youths and teens, the bullying they are most likely to experience is from peers at school. Going back to school after summer break is a major transition for students. There are many social changes that occur in the transition back to school, which often requires students to form and renegotiate peer group structures.”
Unfortunately, these ‘renegotiations’ of complex social structures in school can often lead to conflict in the classroom. To help tackle this, every year in October, PACER takes part in National Bullying Prevention Month, which offers support to those dealing with bullies at such a stressful time of year. There’s a big focus on providing information online, a forum where young people are most easily accessible. There’s more information on the PACER website here.
Searches for “cyberbullying” also see a peak around the start of the Autumn term, with a worrying 90,500 searches every month. However, if we look at the long-term picture, searches for cyberbullying have actually dropped over the past few years. In October 2013, this term peaked at over 200,000 searches – so although searches still peak at the same time, there are far fewer, thanks to organizations like PACER.
Despite a drop in searches, cyberbullying is still a reality for many children, with around half of teens estimated to become victims during their formative years. As each generation becomes more accustomed to the use of the Internet from a younger age, cyberbullying will undoubtedly become even more common. Bailey shares some advice for dealing with bullying online:
“Think before you post a comment back to someone who is cyberbullying you. If you’re upset, sad, or angry, wait to post or respond. Give yourself some time to cool down, so you don’t do something that you can’t take back. Retaliation can also get you in trouble. Tell your parents, a trusted adult, and/or someone at your school – a teacher, counsellor, coach, or principal. Believe it or not, they can help you. You don’t have to do this alone!”
Not only do searches for “child psychologist” peak around the start of the new school year and immediately after the winter break, but in September/October of last year, searches were higher than any other time over the past 4 years. This record surge in searches could be due to any number of reasons, but does show some correlation with perceived instability in the level of funding for services, such as school psychologists, reliant on Obamacare.
One of President Trump’s election promises is to repeal the Obamacare act, which could, at least temporarily, put some services at risk. With this in mind, it seems that many parents may be looking elsewhere to help support their children’s mental health. Tera Tuten from ProCare Therapy commented:
“School therapists and psychologists provide an invaluable service for children across the country. We help place some of the best professionals with schools they can really make a difference in, and bullying is often one of the most common problems they help deal with.”
“We were interested to see how search queries on child psychologists had peaked late last year just before the election. We know that children are particularly stressed at this time of year as they return to school, but it seems with uncertainty around healthcare reforms, there is an extra appetite for information as searches again peaked at 33,100 in January 2017, just as the new administration was entering office.”
There is no surefire, easy way to stop bullying. It takes a multi-faceted approach from parents, teachers, healthcare professionals and external organizations to help. While children may search the Internet for help and advice, especially at stressful times of year, only a comprehensive collaboration at school, at home and with resources online, will ensure vulnerable children have the support that they need to thrive and overcome the bullying epidemic.