“Cyberbullying” is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatend, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying. The methods used are limited only by the child’s imagination and access to technology. And the cyberbully one moment may become the victim the next. The kids often change roles, going from victim to bully and back again.
Cyberbullying is usually not a one time communication, unless it involves a death threat of serious bodily harm. Kids usually know it when they see it, while parents may be more worried about the lewd language used by the kids than the hurtful effect of rude and embarrassing posts.
Cyberbullying may arise to the level of a misdemeanor cyberharassment charge, or if the child is young enough may result in the charge of juvenile delinquency. Most of the time the cyberbullying does not go that far, although parents often try and pursue criminal charges. It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a terms of service violation. And in some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved, can be a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.
There are two kinds of cyberbullying: direct attacks (messages sent to kids directly) and cyberbullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge). Because cyberbullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it is much more dangerous. Please visit the website to get more information on these two kinds of cyberbullying.
Why do kids cyberbully each other?
When it comes to cyberbullying, they are often motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. Sometimes they do it for entertainment or because they are bored and have too much time on their hands and too many tech toys available to them. Many do it for laughs or to get a reaction. Some do it by accident, and either send a message to the wrong recipient or didn’t think before they did something. The Power-Hungry do it to torment others and for their ego. Revenge of the Nerd may start out defending themselves from traditional bullying only to find that they enjoy being the tough guy or gal. Mean Girls do it to help bolster or remind people of their own social standing. And some think they are righting wrong and standing up for others.
Take a stand against cyberbullying
Education can help considerably in preventing and dealing with the consequences of cyberbullying. The first place to begin an education campaign is with the kids and teens themselves. We need to address ways they can become inadvertent cyberbullies, how to be accountable for their actions and not to stand by and allow bullying (in any form) to be acceptable. We need to teach them not to ignore the pain of others.
Teaching kids to “Take 5!” before responding to something they encounter online is a good place to start. Jokingly, we tell them to “Drop the Mouse! And step away from the computer and no one will get hurt!” We then encourage them to find wys to help them calm down. This may include doing yoga, or deep-breathing. It may include running, playing catch or shooting hoops. Each person can find their own way of finding their center again. And if they do, they will often not become a cyberbully, even an inadvertent cyberbully. Teaching them the consequences of their actions, and that the real “Men in Black” may show up at their front door sometimes help. Since many cyberbullying campaigns include some form of hacking or password identity theft, serious laws are implicated. Law enforcement including the FBI, might get involved in these cases.
If we can help kids understand how much bullying hurts, how in many cases (unlike the children’s chant) words can hurt you, fewer may cooperate with the cyberbullies. They will think twice before forwarding a hurtful e-mail, or visiting a cyberbullying “voter for the fat girl” site, or allowing others to take videos or cell phone pictures of personal moments or compromising poses of others. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said in the end we will remember not the word of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. We need to teach our children not to stand silently by while others are being tormented. While it is crucial that we teach them not to take matters into their own hands (and perhaps become a “vengeful angel” cyberbully themselves) they need to come to us. And if we expect them to trust us, we need to be worthy of that trust.
We need to teach our children that silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable.
Adults Should Care About Bullying
There are a number of reasons why adults should be concerned about bullying among children and youth.
-Many children are involved in bullying, and most are extremely concerned about it.
-Studies show that between 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency (sometimes or more often) while 15-20% admit they bully others with some frequency.
-Not only is bullying prevalent, but children and youth report being extremely concerned about it. In a 2003 Harris poll of 8-17 year old girls, commissioned by the Girl Scouts of the USA, bullying topped girls’ list of concerns regarding their safety. when asked what they worried about the most, the most common repsonse was being socially ostracized, being teased or being made fun of. [Feeling Safe: What Girls Say by Judy Scoenberg, Ed.M., Toija Riggins, Ph.D., and Kimberlee Salmond, M.P.P. (New York, N.Y.: Girl Scouts of the USA, 2003). 114 pp. (Executive Summary, 23 pp.)]
-Bullying can seriously affect the mental health, academic work, and physical health of children who are targeted.
-Children who are bullied are more likely than other children to have lower self-esteem; higher rates of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Recent studies indicate that there may be reason to be concerned about the school attendance and academic work of children involved in bullying.
-Research on the health-related effects of bullying indicates that vicitims of frequent bullying are more likely to experience a variety of health problems, including headaches, sleeping problems, and stomach ailments.
-Some emotional scars can be long-lasting. Research suggest that adults who were bullied as children are more likely than their non-bullied peers to be depressed and have low self-esteem as adults.
-Children who bully are more likely than other children to be engaged in other antisocial, violent, or troubling behavior.
Findings from research in the U.S. and abroad indicate that children who bully are more likely to:
-Get into frequent fights
-Be injured in fight
-Steal, vandolize property
-Be truant, drop out of school
-Report poorer academic achievement
-Perceive a negative climate at school
-Carry a weapon
Bullying can negatively affect children who observe bullying going on around them–even if they aren’t targeted themselves.
-Children who are bystanders to bullying can feel fearful (“Maybe I’ll be targeted next!”), guilty (“I should do something to stop this, but I’m afraid to.”), and distracted from school work.
-Bullying can contribute to a negative social climate at school.
-Bullying is a form of victimization or abuse, and it is wrong. Children should be able to attend school or take part in community activities without fear of being harassed, assaulted, belittled, or excluded.