September is Suicide Prevention Month and the Elk Grove Unified School District has started its Suicide Prevention Awareness campaign, “It’s okay to talk about suicide.” In an attempt to remove some of the fear and stigma that surrounds the topic of suicide, we would like to provide families, students, and staff with information about suicide and its connection to children’s online lives.
We know that students spend a large amount of time online, and although many interactions are positive, children often encounter negative elements like cyberbullying. According to a 2018 Pew Research Study, researchers found that 59% of teens have been the target of cyberbullying, with name-calling and rumor-spreading being the most common forms of harassment. Additionally, 90% of teens in the U.S. believe that online harassment is a problem. Cyberbullying statistics for 2020 show that even tweens are exposed to cyberbullying. At least 14.9% say they witnessed cyberbullying, while 3.2% harassed others. A total of 20.9% say that they have come into contact with cyberbullying in some form. It’s never too early to talk to children about cyberbullying and being a good digital citizen. Whether your child is a victim, a bystander, or even the aggressor, discuss what to do if he/she/they are involved.
These alarming statistics raise even more concern when we look at the possible connection between cyberbullying and suicide. According to the Journal of Health Economics, internet bullying increases suicidal thinking among victims by 14.5%. Furthermore, it increases suicide attempts by 8.7%. Although these statistics seem daunting, families, students, and staff can utilize strategies to assist children in navigating these challenges.
Cruel and mean people (cyberbullies) often hide behind their keyboards. Privacy settings can assist parents and students in blocking strangers and cyberbullies/Internet trolls from friending and commenting, but they can’t prevent all negative behavior.
- Get to know the apps your children are using. Some apps lend themselves to meanness (anonymity, group chats, messaging apps that allow interaction with strangers, live streaming chat, etc.).
- Make sure you and your children know how to report abuse in the apps and online games they are using.
- Encourage upstanding and empathy. Peers sticking up for peers is the best defense.
- Take screenshots and get an adult or law enforcement involved if the harassment is ongoing or safety is threatened.
- Check out our cyberbullying page for resources, reporting and prevention tips.
The Elk Grove Unified School District also has an Incident Reporting System that can be accessed from anywhere online through a unique link located on every school’s website.
The types of issues that can be reported through the online Incident Reporting System are:
- Bullying/Cyberbullying – Bullying includes verbal, non-verbal, physical or emotional acts against another student either in person, via electronic device or online.
- Damage or Harm to School or Property – Damage or harm to school property includes intentional destruction to the school or school property in a harmful or malicious manner.
- Discrimination or Harassment – Discrimination or harassment includes acts against another person on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, age, or personal beliefs either in person, via electronic device or online.
- Harm to Self or Others – Harm includes intent or desire to injure yourself or others.
For emergencies and/or urgent situations requiring immediate help/assessment, you are encouraged to:
- Call 911 or contact EGUSD’s Safety and Security office at (916) 686-7786.
- Contact the Local Suicide Prevention Crisis Line – (916) 368-3111.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Addressing cyberbullying head-on can help mitigate the toll it takes on students’ mental health. Additionally, talking about suicide is the first step in removing the fear and stigma and can lead to more positive outcomes for students.