Bullying has existed for generations. Technology has turned what once could be temporarily escaped into a non-stop, around-the-clock menace for many victims. WBFO, with the assistance of AT&T, hosted an online panel discussion, Cyberbullying: A Relentless Cycle, to address cyberbullying and how to address and stop it.
Participating in the online discussion, held inside the studios of WNED-WBFO, were Amherst School District social worker Daniela Wolfe, University at Buffalo Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention director Amanda Nickerson and Tracy Rodemeyer, whose son Jamey was driven to suicide by constant bullying in 2011.
"We focused quite a bit on digital citizenship and responsible use of technology but I just want to reiterate that it starts long before technology enters into the equation," said Nickerson after the live webcast.
Among the challenges facing parents and bullying victims is how to disconnect from the online harassment. It's much easier said than done, Rodemeyer said, and many victims remain connected online with their tormenters because it's how they keep themselves aware of who is saying what.
"People will say it's easy, just shut your phone off or get off Facebook," Rodemeyer said. "I think part of it is the kids are like 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' I think that's what happened with my son, because the biggest bully that got to him to where he is, he was a 'friend' with her on Facebook.
"Why would you do that? But maybe it was to see what was going on. I didn't know that until after the fact. If someone was saying something behind your back, you'd really want to know. You don't want to know, but you do. I think that's what gets the kids sucked into where they just can't shut down from it."
Further complicating the issue of cyberbullying is the rising culture of boorish behavior among adults. It was noticeable in last year's presidential race and accepted by many as a means to strike back against "political correctness." But it further discourages the cyberbullying victim.
"They see that there's no responsibility sometimes for what you say, as well as you don't see how you're affecting other people directly," said Wolfe. "It can be very detached and they don't feel that same engagement as if they had a negative conversation with a person face to face."
Click here for a list of cyberbullying prevention digital resources.