Dear Trish: What’s bullying prevention month? (I mean, I know what it is…but why does it matter?) And how can I really “show up” this year?
Hi everyone! After a mental health break last week — speaking of which, I hope you all enjoyed some self-care and a break this past Sunday, which was #WorldMentalHealthDay — I’m back again, and excited to dive into a really great and timely question.
First of all, thank you for highlighting the fact that here in the U.S., October is Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying Prevention Month is a nationwide campaign that’s been around since ~2006; every October, groups across the country (and now, around the world!) raise awareness and promote education about bullying. As the issue of cyberbullying and online hate has become more pervasive, the month has also become an important time to chat about digitally driven bullying, and what we can do to address it.
Okay, cool, you’re thinking. But why does it actually matter? I mean, it’s just kind of a month of recognition. In some ways, you’re right. But that recognition can actually be super powerful, because it helps draw attention to an issue that otherwise can get swept under the rug or minimized. And the fact is, cyberbullying really has become a silent and deadly “pandemic” of its own. Digital harassment spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, such that the most recent statistics suggest that 1 out of every 3 young people has been harassed online. And as we’ve discussed in past posts, this cyber harassment continues to disproportionately affect historically marginalized communities, like women and people of color. More awareness of this reality — as sad and troubling as it is — is the first step to building effective solutions.
And on that note, personally speaking, what I love most about Bullying Prevention Month is exactly what you referenced — it’s an amazing time and opportunity for everyone, but particularly young people, to “show up” in support of a kinder world, especially online. I speak from personal experience — it was around 8 years ago, in October of 2013, that I was first inspired to get into anti-hate work. In fact, it was learning more about the issue that actually sparked the idea for ReThink, my anti-cyberbullying app. I was researching online hate — reading books and articles — when I stumbled upon a saddening statistic: 90% of young people who are cyberbullied choose not to tell a parent or guardian, and instead, suffer in silence. It made me realize: current solutions (at the time) to tackle cyberbullying, which often encouraged victims to tell a parent or teacher, were almost certainly not working. It also made me wonder: why were we putting the burden on the victim to act? Why couldn’t we instead tackle the problem at the source, with the cyberbully? And boom. ReThink was born.
With that said, as you think about how to “show up” this month, my biggest pieces of advice are to 1) do a little research and 2) consider how you can leverage your unique skills to make an impact. Cyberbullying is a huge problem, so doing a little research to figure out what aspect of the problem you might be interested in tackling is a necessary step. In my case, I realized I wanted to focus on prevention. Maybe you’re interested in tackling online hate’s aftereffects, like the many mental health issues victims endure. Once you have a sense of what you’d like to work on, consider what you uniquely can bring to the table to make change on that issue. Maybe you have a certification in counseling, so you can volunteer as part of a local group that supports victims of digital trauma. Or maybe you’re really, really good at fundraising — it’s just your thing! — in which case, you might run a fundraising campaign for an anti-hate organization working to improve youth mental health. Any and all of it is so important and really will make a huge difference.
As always, thank you for tuning in to another week of Ask Trish! Maybe Bullying Prevention Month has sparked some other questions on your mind about online hate, or there are other topics — whether current events or a personal experience — that you want to get some perspective on. Don’t hesitate to share any Internet-related questions, thoughts, or perspectives here (your topic might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post!). And don’t forget: anything you’re feeling or want some thoughts on is valid, and this community and I are here to support you. 💙 And on the topic of support — remember, if you see an Ask Trish video you like, give it a like and share it on your social media! Let’s get keep spreading the #AskTrish word!
See you all again next Tuesday,