Cyber bullying is bullying through email, instant
messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site
posts, or digital messages or images send to a
cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA)
(Kowalski et al. 2008). Cyber bullying, like
traditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power,
aggression, and a negative action that is
CYBER BULLYING HAS SOME RATHER UNIQUE
CHARACTERISTICS THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM
Anonymity: As bad as the "bully" on the playground
may be, he or she can be readily identified and
potentially avoided. On the other hand, the child who
cyber bullies is often anonymous. The victim is left
wondering who the cyber "bully" is, which can cause a
great deal of stress.
Accessibility: Most children who use traditional ways of
bullying terrorize their victim at school, on the bus, or
walking to or from school. Although bullying can happen
elsewhere in the community, there is usually a standard
period of time during which these children have access
to their victims. Children who cyber bully can wreak
havoc any time of the day or night.
Punitive Fears: Victims of cyber bullying often do not
report it because of: (1) fear of retribution from their
tormentors, and (2) fear that their computer or phone
privileges will be taken away. Often, adults' responses to
cyber bullying are to remove the technology from a
victim - which in their eyes can be seen as punishment.
Bystanders: Most traditional bullying episodes occur in
the presence of other people who assume the role of
bystanders or witnesses. The phenomenon of being a
bystander in the cyber world is different in that they may
receive and forward emails, view web pages, forward
images sent to cell phones, etc. The number of
bystanders in the cyber world can reach into the
Disinhibition: The anonymity afforded by the Internet
can lead children to engage in behaviors that they might
not do face-to-face. Ironically, it is their very anonymity
that allows some individuals to bully at all.
Kylie Kenney was
standing at her locker
two years ago when
asked her if she had
seen "the Web site."
Kylie Kenney, an eighth grade student from
Vermont lost 2 years of living as from cyber bullying
due to classmates. From middle school through
10th grade of high school, Kylie was forced to live
with websites made by her classmates that featured
names like “Kill Kylie Incorporated” that were filled
with threatening, homophobic names and insulting
comments about the young girl. These hurtful kids
started screen names close to Kylie’s name and
used them to make inappropriate remarks on
Kylie’s teammates on the field hockey team. In
conclusion, the police charged children responsible
for harrasment .
She had no idea what they were talking about, but
as the day wore on, she quickly learned — and so
started her journey into becoming a victim of cyber-
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff stood with
Kenney at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C., Thursday when she told her
story as part of a campaign to educate
students, parents and teachers that bullying has
gone beyond stealing lunch money or playground
The group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids says that
bullying has evolved to include anonymous threats
and harassment over the Internet through Web
pages, e-mails and instant messaging or text
messages, and calls on a teen's cell phone.
Kenney, who will be a sophomore this fall in
Vermont, described how on that day in eighth grade
she learned that someone had set up an Internet
site called "Kill Kylie Incorporated" that was
"devoted to show people how gay Kylie Kenney is,"
with the sign-off phrase, "Kylie must die." A few
days later, someone started sending instant
messages with Kylie's screen name to girls,
including a field-hockey teammate, asking them out
"I was just so ashamed, humiliated and scared,"
Kenney said. "I couldn't understand why anyone
would do this.“
A poll commissioned by the Fight Crime group
found that 13 million schoolchildren nationwide
were bullied electronically during the past school
year, and more than 2 million said they will never
tell anyone about the attacks. Shurtleff said most
children and teens do not know where the
harassment comes from or who is doing it, but the
problem can cause serious stress, and even
Kenney received professional help and changed
schools twice. She was home-schooled for a
semester before things subsided.
But other victims are not as lucky. Ryan Halligan,
also from Vermont, was 13 years old when he
hanged himself, and while his parents do not blame
a specific person or action, they learned after his
death of instant-message conversations that helped
shed some light on the problems their son faced.
Shurtleff said a Utah man, also a victim of cyber-
bullying, used the line "maybe now I'll have some
peace" as the last part of his suicide note.
Shurtleff said Congress needs to pass a bill that
would allow federal money to schools to help with
programs aimed at preventing bullying.
"Threatening to kill Kylie is a crime," he said.
His own 11-year-old niece wanted an e-mail
address and eventually got one, but she later told
the attorney general that some of her friends gave it
out and she got messages from people who said
Shurtleff emphasized the difference between
schoolyard bullying and cyber-bullying, in which the
bullies have 24-hour access to their victims.
"I had no escape," Kenney said. "Everything
followed me to school.“
Darrel Stephens, chief of police for the Charlotte-
Mecklenburg Police Department in North
Carolina, said the key to protecting students from
cyber-bullying is to learn about it early.
"I don't think people understand the effect cyber-
bullying can have," he said. "The laws have not
caught up with this kind of bullying.“
Although the "Kill Kylie" Web page came down
soon after it was put up, it took nine months to
discover who made it. Two students were
suspended from school, and the police had to be
called because the bullying included a death threat.
Details of police action related to the students are
not available because they are juveniles. But
Kenney said she did not know the students beyond
speaking to them once or twice.
"No one should have to go through this," Kenney
said. "Schools need to be trained to know how to
deal with these types of situations.“
Shurtleff said Utah does not have any policy on this
type of harassment or bullying, but he would like to
see a resolution passed on it.
"Right now, to me the best thing to do is educate
and make people aware of it," Shurtleff said. "When
it comes to the Internet, parents are generally less
educated than the kids. Even law enforcement
officers aren't quite up to speed.“
His advice? "If your kid complains about bullying,
take it seriously."