What is cyberbullying, exactly? Holladay suggest that cyberbullying is the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate, or threaten others (4). People can cyberbully others through text messaging, instant messaging, blogs, email, social networks, and sharing embarrassing photos/videos. Smith et al. argue that while cyberbullying through phone calls and text messaging are the most common, the sharing of video clips and photos are reported to have the most negative impact (379).
Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying in the following ways: The inclusion of technology. The anonymity maintained by the bully. Bullying can easily continue outside of school. Gender does not play a role. It is very indirect.
The most obvious difference between traditional bullying and cyberbullying is the inclusion of technology. Rather than verbally harassing or physically abusing a peer, cyberbullies use cell phones and computers to torment others. Timm and Perez report, “In May, 2009, an Elk Plain School of Choice female student by the name of Piper Smith was stunned to see a video posted on YouTube entitled, ‘Six Ways to Kill Piper.’ The video was created by two girls who at the time were ages 11 and 12, respectively. The video depicted how Piper would be killed through a variety of methods. These methods involved poisoning her, shooting her with guns, shoving her off a cliff, and even forced suicide. The two girls who were involved in the creation of the animated video were disciplined and the video itself was pulled from YouTube; however, it demonstrates the ease in which these sophisticated tools may be used for devious purposes” (100). Haber and Haber observe that there are several different types of cyberbullying, including the following: Flaiming - sending messages through email, instant message, or text message that are mean, rude, or inappropriate. Harassment - sending offensive messages to someone repeatedly. Cyber-Stalking - similar to harassment, but with threats of harm. Impersonating or Masquerading - using the online identity of another person to post material that causes that person to look bad. Outing - the public revealing of private or embarrassing information or photos in an effort to ostracize or humiliate that person. (54) Though cell phones can be used for cyberbulling, social networking sites like Facebook, blogs, and even web sites such as YouTube can be used to bully others.
One of the reasons cyberbullying is so popular is the anonymity the bully can maintain. Feinberg and Robey believe that they likely feel much less afraid of being caught and disciplined (27). It is also common for cyberbullies, especially females, to work in groups. Not only does this make it more difficult to identify who is bullying, but it can also increase how often a victim is bullied. Norton claims, “The Internet allows students to insult others in relative anonymity, and experts who study cyberbullying say it can be more damaging to victims than traditional bullying like fist fights and classroom taunts” (A1). Reducing anonymity is one possible solution that has been discussed to help decrease cyberbullying.
Though cyberbullying can occur at school, it typically takes place outside of the classroom. Traditionally, victims were mostly tormented at school, where they were put in the same path as their bullies. However, because cyberbullies use technology to reach their victims, there is no escape. Students can be states apart and still be bullied. This can cause victims to feel even more hopeless that their situation will ever improve.
Feinberg and Robey report that while traditional bullies are more likely to be male, gender does not play a role in cyberbullying (27). However, Holladay suggests, males and females bully through technology in different ways. Ordinarily, males accuse each other of being gay while females use labels like, “slut” to cause harm and are more likely to work in groups (6).
In relation to traditional bullying, cyberbullying is much less direct. Haber and Haber emphasize, “Rather than threatening a kid to his face, cyberbullies can simply type the message and hit send without seeing the all too real look on the face of the kid who receives it” (53). It is also suggested that it is easier to cyberbully because the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it difficult for bullies to feel empathy. For this same reason, the average student is much more likely to engage in cyberbullying than traditional bullying.
Just like with traditional bullying, the effects of cyberbullying can be devastating. Cyberbullying.gov reports that most victims experience depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. However, cyberbullying can also play a role in decreased academic achievement and could cause students to skip or drop out of school. Victims of cyberbullying may also show their frustration by becoming externally violent. Though it is very rare for victims to actually commit suicide, unfortunately, it can occur.
Students who are traditional victims of bullying are the same people who are likely to be cyberbullied. Some have hypothesized that typical victims of bullying may engage in cyberbullying. However, Smith et al. insist that this theory has not been supported. Feinberg and Robey argue, “Approximately half of cyberbullying victims are also targets of traditional bullying. Victims generally are more unpopular, isolated, depressed, anxious, and fearful than their peers. Those at risk are more likely to be searching for acceptance and attention online, more vulnerable to manipulation, less attentive to Internet safety messages, less resilient in getting out of a difficult situation, less able or willing to rely on their parents for help, and less likely to report a dangerous online situation to an adult” (27). Chang reports that the effects of bullying last into adulthood and can even impact victims a decade after the actual incident (516).
While the victims of cyberbullying are similar to traditional victims of bullying, the bully may be different. Feinberg and Robey emphasize, “Like traditional bullies, cyberbullies tend to have poorer relationships with their caregivers than their peers. They are more likely than nonbullies to be targets of traditional bullying, to engage in delinquent behavior and frequent substance use, and to be daily Internet users” (27). However, because people feel less empathy when cyberbullying than during traditional bullying, “regular” students are quite likely to be cyberbullies. Even those who bully should be provided with support from the school, including counseling.
Due to its devastating popularity, many states have adopted anticyberbullying laws. However, it is suggested in “Cyberbullying Crackdown” that it is tricky to create anticyberbullying laws without infringing on people’s first amendment rights and some believe that making cyberbullying a crime goes too far (5). Many school districts are taking action into their own hands by adopt rules that combat cyberbullying including revoking their school internet privileges, in school suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary actions.
How can cyberbullying be prevented?
Feinberg and Robey suggest that students should respond to cyberbullying in the following way: Do not retaliate, because retaliation can escalate the harassment and make it unclear who first instigated the aggression. Either ignore the communication or calmly tell the cyberbully to stop. Tell an adult about the cyberbullying, particularly if there is anything threatening in the messages. Make a hard copy of the posted material. Write down how you feel or what you might want to say, but don't send it to anyone. Walk away and read it later. You will feel better and probably won't want to send it to the bully, but you may want to include it with other documentation. Do not delete e-mail or text messages until an adult has reviewed and documented the material. Block future communication and clean up your instant messenger buddy list. Do not do or say anything online that you wouldn't do in person or that you are not comfortable having other people know. (28) Students need to be taught that their should be a separation between public and private. Essentially, people can access nearly anything and just because you send a photo to your boyfriend or post something on Twitter for your friends does not mean they will be the only people who see it. Technology makes it very easy to pass information along to a large group of people very quickly. If it is something you would not want your parent or grandparent to see, do not post or send it!
Since the majority of cyberbullying takes place outside of school, parents must get involved to lessen cyberbullying. It is much easier for students to bully one another when what they do on the internet and how much time they spend on it is not monitored. According to Feinberg and Robey, schools should provide parents with the following tips to combat cyberbullying: Keep computers in easily viewable places, such as the family room or kitchen. Talk regularly with your children about the online activities in which they are involved and Internet etiquette in general. Be specific about the risks of cyberbullying and their need to tell you if something bothers them. Respect for adolescents' privacy is important, but tell your children that you may review their online communications if you become concerned. Set clear expectations for responsible online behavior and phone use. Explain the consequences for violating those expectations. Consider establishing a parent-child Internet use contract. Be aware of warning signs that might indicate that your son or daughter is being bullied, such as reluctance to use the computer, a change in the child's behavior and mood, or reluctance to go to school. Consider installing parental control filtering software and tracking programs, but do not rely solely on these tools. Be equally alert to the possibility that your child is bullying others online, even if unintentionally. Document any bullying. Contact the school to enlist the help of the school psychologist, the school counselor, the principal, or the resource officer. File a complaint with the web site, ISP, or cell phone company. Contact the police if the cyberbullying includes threats. (28).
One of the largest problems for schools concerning cyberbullying is that it usually takes place outside of the school setting. However, it still very much effects what takes place during the school day and the school should provide victims with the help they require. Feinberg and Robey assert, “victims should receive appropriate supports, such as targeted skills development, counseling, monitoring, and referral to community resources. It may also be appropriate to contact the cyberbully's parents and to provide behavioral interventions to the bully” (30). Feinberg and Robey suggest incorporating cyberbullying into relevant school policies including the following: Bullying Harassment Sexual Harassment Internet Use Cell Phone Use Policies (28) Schools can provide classes for parents to educated them about cyberbullying. They can also help by posting these tips on the school website, distributing them through email, and sending students home with flyers including this information.
Cyberbullying is not just a student situation, but something that can effect teachers, staff, and administrators as well. Feinberg and Robey insist, “Online harassment of school staff members is an emerging concern for administrators. Cyberspace offers a perception of safety and power to students who are angry at a teacher or think that it is amusing to poke fun at or humiliate an adult in power. There is a fine line between free speech and harassment in these cases, so principals should work closely with district legal counsel to appropriately address harassment of staff members in school policies” (31).
Facebook is trying to help alleviate cyberbullying by making it easier for kids to get help. Regine and Northside report, “Last week, Facebook announced the addition of a new &quot;social reporting&quot; tool that allows Facebook users -- including teens -- to not only privately report disturbing content to the site, but also to responsible adults in their friend networks. Facebook also is adding an improved Safety Center with educational videos and articles about cyberbullying” (13). Regine and Northside suggest that children and teenagers are not mature enough to be using a social networking website like Facebook (13). Most websites that cyberbullies use have privacy preferences that can lessen some incidences of cyberbullying. Though cyberbullies may use social networks as an outlet to torment others, it is definitely not the most popular source. Cassel emphasizes that most educators find merit in using social networks in the classroom setting. Therefore, instead of blocking Bebo, LinkedIn, etc, schools and parents should teach students how to responsibly use these resources and to protect themselves.
The following resources can help inform students, parents, and schools about cyberbullying: http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/index2.html http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/cyberbullying.html http://www.cyberbullying.org/ http://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html http://cyberbullying.wikispaces.com/ http://couros.wikispaces.com/cyberbullying
Stop Cyberbullying This web site has information about what cyberbullying is, how it works, and what you can do to take action against it. It also organizes specific information for students, parents, and professionals (educators and law enforcement).
National Crime Prevention Council This resource has basic information concerning cyberbullying. However, it also has links to other valuable resources and public service announcements about cyberbullying.
KidsHealth This web site has information pertaining to all facets of children’s health, including information for parents, teens, and kids about cyberbullying. It also has additional resources about cyberbullying and is available in Spanish.
Cyberbullying.org This web site has examples of and supplies news about cyberbullying. However, this resource also has a very unique section titled, “Talk the Talk” in which parents and other adults can learn to recognize online acronyms and emoticons that students may be using.
Stopbullying.gov Stopbullying.gov provides information about bullying and cyberbullying from various government agencies, including the Department of Education.
Cyberbullying Wiki This wiki has information about cyberbullying and how to prevent it. It also has a PowerPoint about online safety for high school students. There are also several beneficial videos available on this wiki.
Open Thinking Wiki This wiki has other information about educational topics other than cyberbullying. However, there are some excellent videos and resources highlighted in the “cyberbullying” page of this wiki.
Technology is a wonderful resource that enriches education and should not be removed from schools due to the fear of cyberbullying. Instead, students should be educated about how to protect themselves online and what steps they should take if they become a victim of cyberbullying. The schools policies on cyberbullying should be made very clear and students should be taught how damaging cyberbullying can be. Schools should provide both victims and cyberbullies with support. Schools should also inform and educate parents/guardians about the warning signs of cyberbullying (both in the victim and bully) as well as what steps can be taken to prevent or lessen cyberbullying attacks. They should also be encourage to get involved in their child’s lives because cyberbullying mostly takes place outside. Parents should also be provided with helpful online resources. Educators should also take steps to protect themselves from cyberbullying and to maintain their online privacy.
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Works CitedNorton, Justin M. "States Consider Laws to Curb Cyberbullies ; Anonymous Online Bullies often Cause More Damage than the Regular Schoolyard Type." Wisconsin State Journal: A.1. ProQuest Central. Feb 22 2007. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.NovusSecurity. “Cyberbullying Prevention Tips (Novus Securtiy). YouTube 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-wLFdd_jr4.Regine, Sarah C., and Northside. "Unfriending Mean Teens." Chicago Tribune: 13. ProQuest Central. Mar 17 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.Smith, Peter K., et al. “Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49.4 (2008): 376-385. Wiley Online Library. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.Stopbullying.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. http://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html.Taylor, Kelley R., Esq. "Cyberbullying: Is there Anything Schools can do?" Principal Leadership 8.9 (2008): 60-2. ProQuest Central. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.Timm, Carl, and Richard Perez. Seven Deadliest Social Network Attacks. Burlington: Elsevier Inc, 2010. Print