TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The days of a bully being confined to picking on others on the school playground have made way for a much less-understood form of bullying.

Today, many bullies refrain from physical bullying, opting instead for harassing others online. And although cyber bullying doesn’t have the same, obvious signs that physical bullying does, it can be just as damaging in the long term.

“It’s very clear that academic attendance and performance suffer, and social withdrawal occurs,” says Oliver Massey, PhD., with the Department of Child and Family Services at the University of South Florida.

Massey also sits on the Hillsborough County Anti-Bullying Committee of Hillsborough County.

He says that while teachers and school administrators will certainly be on the lookout for cyber bullying this school year, this form of abuse can happen 24/7, 365 days a year. That’s why the Anti-Bullying Committee is now focused on parents, who are on the front lines of bully prevention, but who often don’t quite understand the various forms of social media apps through which cyber bullying occurs.

Massey says parents need to educate themselves on all of the apps their children are using and learn the risks of each. Then, he says, parents need to learn to recognize the signs of bullying, which often include social withdrawal, anxiousness, falling grades or a lack of desire to go to school.

The Tampa Bay area has several sources through which bullying can be reported, including:

Tampa Bay area school systems also have established means to report bullying:

  • Hillsborough County Schools: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/395/bully-prevention/documents-forms/bullyprevention-form/
  • Pinellas County Schools: https://www.anonymousalerts.com/pinellascs/
  • Pasco County Schools: http://www.pasco.k12.fl.us/ssps/stop_bullying/
  • Polk County Schools: http://bullying.polk-fl.net/
  • Manatee County Schools: http://www.manatee.k12.fl.us/safe/Report%20Bullying.htm
  • Sarasota County Schools (hotline) 1-877-7BE-BRAVE

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