A question has been on my mind as of late: what is happening in the world of youth bullying now that many elementary students and teens are out of school? At first, I thought for certain that bullying numbers would be down. How can a kid be bullied if they’re not around their bullies anymore? Sounds logical.
Except that I hadn’t considered cyberbullying.
My jaw dropped
7 years ago, I wrote a young adult novel about bullying. The story just poured out of me and I’m not quite sure where it came from. What I do know, is that bullying is a subject I am extremely passionate about and the event that fuelled my writing journey happened when I was at the gym one day.
I was doing cardio on the arc and catching up on a little news on my phone. I came across a bullying story. A video had gone viral of a young girl, 15 years old, who had posted a 9-minute clip online telling her story of cyberbullying, struggle, self-harm and torment. Her name was Amanda Todd and she was from Port Coquitlam in British Columbia, Canada. She spoke no words in the video, and instead used flash cards to tell her heartbreaking story. It was unbelievably powerful. I began to cry.
In October of 2012, she took her life.
Amanda Todd’s story is what made me write my novel. Hers is the very story that gripped me so profoundly, I simply had to put pen to paper. While I shelved my book for so long (likely out of fear, new priorities of motherhood, fear, busy with my clients, fear, distracted by other things, fear…) I recently decided to finish that project. 2020 marked the year I polished and updated the book, and just in the last couple of months I have begun to make a serious push by way of putting my manuscript into print.
Then came the coincidence of today.
Life has a way of telling us something
I began to research the impact of COVID-19 on bullying and the very first article I click on is a story from the Vancouver Sun about no other than Amanda Todd, and her mother, Carol Todd, who has shared Amanda’s story and spoken out around the world over the last several years.
I don’t think so.
The article is called: COVID-19: Isolated youth online more than ever, increasing risk of bullying and other cyber crimes. Have a read.
The COVID-19 effect
It isn’t pretty. Downright alarming, in fact.
Cyberbullying is a real issue that was becoming more apparent even prior to the pandemic and its associated lockdowns. Now, kids stuck at home means more time online – for school, for social interaction, for sports and for hobbies. Everything in our lives has become digital.
Unfortunately, that translates into far more threats in the cyberbullying space. Statistics in the article state that the U.S. has seen a 70% increase in cyberbullying over the last few months alone. It’s an exploding phenomenon across Canada as well, and the rest of the world. Studies of kindergarten to grade 12 students show that, when kids are online more, they’re more likely to participate in cyberbullying – either as the bully or the bullied.
Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, states that, in comparison to 10 years ago, she believes there is more awareness, understanding, resources and tools for kids and parents who find themselves entangled in cyberbullying.
But the scary part is…
It’s getting worse, not better.