Internet Memes & Social Media Cause Cyber-Bullying For Special Needs Kids

For many years, bullying was primarily a physical act that took place in school. However, as technology has advanced, so has the opportunity for students to partake in a different type of bullying: cyber-bullying! Now, cyber-bullying is is not new neither, but recent interviews with counselors and teachers [in Santa Barbara, CA] allowed us to become aware of just HOW MUCH bullying is coming from social media and the Internet.

To our surprise, most of the bullying is not happening on school grounds anymore, but instead through the screens and buttons of mobile devices. Teachers and counselors informed us that most bullying is now in the form of cyber-bullying that originates outside of school, but ultimately makes its way back. From scandalous and inappropriate Snapchats to viral memes, students are being teased and bullied (as well as humiliated) through the ever-changing world of social media.

According to our findings, “memes” are a big deal right now. Many of us may be familiar with memes that have become incredibly popular on the Internet or social media, like “Bad Luck Brian”, “The Most Interesting Man In The World”, or “Overly Attached Girlfriend.” Some of us may even be guilty of creating memes starring our siblings or friends. Though memes are intended to be funny, and are meant to make people laugh, people rarely stop to think about the people featured IN the picture. Memes (along with pretty much anything anyone posts on the internet) have the potential to go viral in minutes. So a hurtful or embarrassing picture that was never intended to be shared online, can instantly become “internet famous.”

Now, some people may embrace their Internet fame and attempt to broaden their audience and fan base on YouTube or Twitter. Others however, may be completely unaware that a meme with their picture even exists. It could have been a friend’s doing, or a prank that ended up spreading to all of their classmates. These types of memes and videos are a form of cyber-bullying. Though the majority of the time a meme is not created as an outlet to make fun of someone, it inevitably happens. And the opportunity for teasing and bullying is clearly there.

One of the most notable cases is Ghyslain Raza, who is perhaps now better known as “Star Wars Kid.” In 2003, Raza videotaped himself performing Star Wars-style fighting moves for his school’s video club. His classmates found the video and posted it on the Internet without his consent. The video became one of the first videos to go viral online, even predating the launch of YouTube.

For Raza, being known as “Star Wars Kid” was a nightmare, he was bullied so incessantly that he eventually dropped out of school and checked into a psychiatric ward.

When Memes Become Bullying

Bullying for teens is difficult enough to police at school or on the playground, but it can become nearly impossible to stop once it goes online, because the internet is nearly impossible to police. Things can get worse when special education students and others with special needs end up online as memes. Most people who view and share an embarrassing viral image of a random teenager won’t know where the image came from, and they certainly won’t know who the subject of the photo is.

It’s hard, even for the best of us, to empathize with an out-of-context photograph of a stranger. Therefore,  it’s easy to get carried away and laugh at a funny meme without realizing that we are laughing at an actual person, with feelings and emotions. That boy/girl with special needs who is being teased online is someone’s son, someone’s friend, and someone with emotions. Ultimately, memes and cyber-bullying can affect a person’s emotional stability. This can definitely be harmful for the emotional stability of kids with special needs or anybody else who accidentally becomes an Internet punch line.

Ultimately, memes and cyber-bullying can affect a person’s emotional stability. This can definitely be harmful for the emotional stability of kids with special needs or anybody else who accidentally becomes an Internet punch line.

For example, Snapchat is gaining more and more popularity amongst pre-teens, teens, and young adults. One inappropriate picture shared online can easily ruin and haunt a student’s reputation and future. Social media and the Internet as a whole provides a lot of cyber-bullying opportunities which is why schools and parents should make it a priority to talk to their students/kids about the dangers of social media, the importance of social boundaries, and the repercussions of engaging in inappropriate online behavior.

Social media and the Internet as a whole provides a lot of cyber-bullying opportunities…

A large part of bullying prevention and conflict resolution in the 21st Century has focused on cyber-bullying, but there should also be a focus to teach students to be empathic. Students need to be aware of the detrimental effects that cyber-bullying can bring for others. Not only can it affect emotional stability, but also it can affect their future in terms of employment and controversies.

We must teach our students and kids to remember that anything that is posted online is online forever… for better or worse. 


NPR: Internet Memes & The Right To Be Forgotten

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]

At James Stanfield, We Think You Should Know:

Parents, teachers, and counselors have all expressed their concerns with the way their students and kids interact through social media channels. A lot of the times, teenagers end up humiliated after photos or memes end up on the Internet or in the hands of someone else. There are many ways that students can respond, and we think it’s important to “BeCOOL” when dealing with these kinds of situations. Our BeCOOL Curriculum will teach your students three different ways to respond to conflict. BeCOOL will also teach your students specific reflective thinking techniques to promote self-control, stop bullying, and control the tendency to impulsively act out. Click here to find out more about BeCOOL!


The Stanfield Way

The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.

Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.

Stanfield Special Education Curriculum

VideoModeling® Programs

VideoModeling® is a ground-breaking teaching concept originated by the James Stanfield Company that’s used in thousands of public and private schools across America and Canada for special education needs.

Read More
Journaling, mediation, and intentional talk aren’t just for adults. 5 ways we can facilitate healthy management of mental health in our children.

James Stanfield Co.

My students were glued to the screen. Love Stanfield’s humor. This is the way to teach social skills.

Susan Simon, Principal

Using Humor to Teach Social Skills

Humor = Retention

We believe you learn best when you laugh. By making the classroom experience more comfortable and enjoyable, humor can make teaching and learning more effective, especially for the K12 segment. At Stanfield, we use humor as an integral part of our curricula.

If you as a speaker don’t help your audience to remember your lessons, then you’re wasting everyone’s time. Humor… can help accomplish that needed retention…

Gean Perret, Screenwriter
Learn more
Newsletter Image
Newsletter Image
Sign Up to receive news alerts, special offers & promotions.
Sign up now!

As a thank you for signing up for emails, you’ll have advance notification of exclusive offers, new offerings, and more.