Cyberbullying: Why Do Kids Of Color Get It More?
Biases, beliefs and distortions can be absorbed by children, then unconsciously retranslated at school, on kids of color.
Why do kids get bullied? In most cases, the reason is because they are different from others. As a kid, you usually become a target for harassment because of your ethnicity, social status, race, physical appearance, IQ, character, sexual orientation, health problems, etc. However, why does it become a reason? If you are somehow different, it absolutely does not mean you are dangerous or anything to be feared.
Bullies hardly can explain their aggression towards victims. Go ask them why they bully and you probably will not receive a consistent answer. “Because he or she is black/Asian/too smart/not smart enough/overweight…” is not actually a reason. It's a simple statement of a fact or an expression of someone’s subjective viewpoint, that does not have to match the reality.
This aggression against the different other is understandable in reference to an evolutionary mechanism aimed to protect a tribe from an intruder. Although much time has passed, many people psychologically remained at the primitive man’s level, so they behave accordingly. Modern technologies just gave them new weapons, abusing their victims via smartphones, computers and tablets.
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There are, of course, several other reasons for bullying, which don’t really differ from the first one, at the core. Some kids bully because they believe that offense is the best defense. They are actually afraid to become victims themselves, or they have already become victims and need to take their anger out on somebody. Some popular kids bully, struggling not to lose their status, and in order to maintain it. They need to constantly make performances to entertain their audience. Obviously, they choose the most vulnerable victims. There are also kids who wouldn’t start bullying, but influenced by their peers and afraid to swim against the current, also participate in producing and spreading abusive content.
Unfortunately, such type of bullying—cyberbullying—results in real consequences despite its virtual nature.
How often do kids of color get bullied, and why?
What is the perfect environment for cyber bullies? Social media platforms, of course. According to this study, abusive comments on social media usually relate to a kid’s appearance/body size (72 percent), race/ethnicity (26 percent), religion (26 percent) and sexual orientation (22 percent). However, since channels of cyberbullying are not limited to social media and include text messages, chats and other communication tools, general statistics on bullying is more relevant if we want to get a full picture. It shows that race/ethnicity is the second most common reason of bullying, along with looks and body shape (30.3 percent compared to 50.9 percent). What’s so special about race and ethnicity factor? The point is, you can be both Asian and overweight, both black and too tall and so on. In such a case, your race can be that trigger for bullying. Because of that, it looks like a kid of color is at a higher risk by default. If he or she has an appearance or body shape that happens to not satisfy somebody’s taste, it will be more likely noticed and linked to your race/ethnicity without any logic. The same implies to other personal characteristics. For example, if there are two kids in a class whose grades are low, and one of them is white and the second one is black, the latter is more likely to be bullied.
Moreover, race and ethnicity could be a part of what parents of a white bully prefer to make jokes, or complain about, at the family dinner. And when such parents watch TV and find out that a man or a women of color commits a crime, who is to be blamed? Not only that particular criminal, but also every representative of his/her race or ethnicity. That is not how things go when a white commits a crime—they don’t blame themselves for the ride. These biases, beliefs and distortions circulating within a family can be absorbed by children, then unconsciously retranslated at school, on kids of color.
So, that’s the reality—kids of color are cyber bullied more often than their white peers.
How can bullying based on race and ethnicity be prevented?
State and local lawmakers do take action, but still, in several states, the law system is a little outdated and does not meet the current necessities.
Schools implement policies to prevent cyberbullying, since students are really less likely to participate in it if they know that there will be consequences for their actions. However, policies can only reduce cyberbullying, not eliminate it.
Considering the fact that it may be harder for kids of color to ask for help from white teachers, as they often don’t feel the latter can get into their situation, the parents’ involvement is crucial. From the moment the kids get their first cell phones, parents have to be aware of what information they receive from the Internet. Unfortunately, kids are often not capable to stand up to abusers, and can even experience mental breakdowns because of seemingly harmless comments.
There are tools that can really help parents to control their kids’ online lives. For example, Windows Phones have a feature that allows to set up special accounts for kids, get activity reports for their PC use and restrict some apps, like Snapchat, from downloading. Parents also can monitor WhatsApp messages either on their kids’ iPhone or an Android-based smartphone using special tools. The market of parental control software has dozens of offerings.
However, the most powerful shield against cyberbullying is the unconditional love parents can give to their kids to make them feel confident in every situation.