The students surveyed felt their peers were more at risk for being cyberbullied than they were themselves. Girls were notably more likely to believe that cyberbullying could happen to them, but overall the students seemed to think that younger students were more at risk for cyberbullying.
In a way, I almost want to salute them for their overconfidence. (But really, isn’t overconfidence one of the hallmarks of youth?) While it’s almost charming that they think they’re somehow individually exempt from being bullied online, it’s also symbolic of how pervasive the mentality behind cyberbullying is. If kids and teens believe that being bullied is something meant for other people, that means they think that there is a kind of person who looks or acts like a victim of bullying more than others do. While this mentality doesn’t necessarily represent a tacit acceptance of cyberbullying, it is, by some strange logic, a way of saying that cyberbullying happens to people who fit a mold, and I don’t fit that mold.
The first thing such logic makes me wonder is whether or not they think that those who fit the bullying mold have a choice. (Spoiler alert: They really don’t. When they “have a choice,” such as deciding not to wear the outfit they’re wearing, it’s just an illusion because hate starts with the hater and we can’t fix that unless we go straight to the source.)
The second thing I wonder is if cyberbullying, when it happens to those who perceived themselves to be immune from it, hits them harder because they didn’t see it coming. While we don’t want to teach our children that they should expect to be cyberbullied, we also don’t want them to think that it can’t happen to them. We don’t want to watch them get blindsided by bullying when all along they could have had a healthy understanding of the risks.
While we’re all busy making every effort to get cyberbullying to stop, it’s important that kids and teens are aware that it can happen to anyone—no one is excluded. And even if we have to get the message out one Taylor Swift song at a time, isn’t that better than letting them think that the tentacles of cyberbullying will never reach them?