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Broncos are not cyberbullies

Written by Jillian Krulac and Julie Walruff in partnership with New Student Programs

As your students  navigate their home away from home, we recognize this is the time of year when students may encounter new or familiar challenges as a modern college student. We’ve seen some students engage with social media in ways that are not aligned with our Statement of Shared Values (view webpage).  According to the JED Campus Foundation (view webpage), “Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place on the internet, as opposed to in person. A cyberbully can use a phone, computer, or other digital device to share content that’s meant to shame or embarrass another person through social media sites, text messages, emails, online forums, gaming platforms, and other digital spaces.”  Right now, the Boise State community is experiencing cyberbullying via hurtful comments and rumors being spread about members of the community through an anonymous Snapchat account. Harassment via social media is far too common in the world. We encourage you to check in with your student about social media and its impact on them.

Specifically, it may be helpful to start a conversation with your student about their standards for social media use. You could prompt them with, “How are you connecting with peers?” To which they may reply, “Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.” Another question to gauge this topic could be, “How do your interactions on social media make you feel?” Questions like these can open conversation about how they use social media and the image they hope to project as they enter a new stage of life. In the age of digital footprints, you may want to chat about how your  student imagines future employers will see them on social media? What are the challenges they may have run into themselves on these platforms? What do they feel is appropriate behavior or inappropriate behavior in these online communities?

It can be difficult to recognize that a loved one has become the victim of cyberbullying. Warning signs that students might be experiencing cyberbullying are: feeling upset by the messages they receive, feeling like they need to hide their phone from others because they are embarrassed or ashamed of the messages they are receiving, or avoiding social situations in real life because of something upsetting that happened online. If you are worried about a loved one potentially being the victim of cyberbullying, be on the lookout for changed behavior when they are using their device or if they are avoiding social situations because of something that happened online. 

If you notice cyberbullying, be an upstander—not a bystander. Encourage the victim to seek help from someone they trust, share what you have observed to the site on which the bullying occurred, and loop in someone from the university to help you stop further cyberbullying.  

Social media is a powerful tool and we encourage our Broncos to use it responsibly. As families, we hope you can connect with your students and remind them that while social media is how many of us build connections, how they choose to interact with their peers and represent themself online is important. Ultimately, a student’s online presence is a direct representation of themselves and can follow them well beyond their college years. 

If you would like help connecting with your student about these topics, reach out. We are all Broncos, and we’re here to support one another!