What should you do if you or a friend is bullied on the web?
In the fast-paced world of technology, anything is bound to happen, especially online. Today, one of the biggest problems of online use is cyberbullying. Personally, this is one that hits close to home for me because I was a victim of cyberbullying at one point in my life. However, I have not let this incident define my worth or who I am as a person. As an Internet user, I’ve had the privilege of learning how to stop cyberbullying and educate others on the importance of addressing cyberbullies to trusted adults.
During the summer of my seventh-grade year, I was a victim of an attack through an app called Kik. At the time, Kik was a very popular instant messaging app used by teens; however, it was also an app used to talk negatively about others. One late afternoon, I was added to a group chat by some girls in the town over from mine. As I began looking through the messages, I found that my name had been brought up several times. They were calling me names and making fun of me in the messages. At that point, I felt so small. I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. Luckily, someone in the group chat spoke up for me but that didn’t stop the others from saying such harsh words. Later, I removed myself from the group chat to avoid any conflict, but I realized that I didn’t do the one thing I was always told to do: stand up for myself.
Two years ago, I wanted to share my voice and speak up for those who had been victims of cyberbullying. Through the Weakley County Youth Prevention Coalition, I was able to do just that. I began collaborating with various students in my school as to how the cyberbullying issue should be stopped, and from that, I later earned a position on staff at Tennessee Teen Institute, which is a leadership camp that focuses on making good decisions pertaining to substance abuse, internet safety, alcohol, and distracted driving. I was able to hear students and teens from across that state share their stories on cyberbullying and being attacked online. I realized that I was not alone.
Eventually, I created my own community outreach program called Choices Matter. A sector of my program focuses on bullying and internet safety. I have been able to talk about my community outreach program on the state level through the Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Program, and I will continue to share information about Choices Matter as I begin competing for a Miss Tennessee preliminary title this year.
While I did not have the voice to stand up for myself, I still encourage anyone, even my friends, to inform a trusted adult. There are parents, teachers, coaches, guardians out there willing to listen. I would also advise my friends to contact law enforcement if the attacks were serious and needed immediate attention. In today’s society, we are all better off safe than sorry.