What is Cyber-bullying? Cyber-bullying, by definition, is when a child, preteen or teen is ridiculed, threatened, harassed, embarrassed, or targeted in some way with the use of technology (phone, internet, other digital device). Both the victim and instigator must be a child, preteen or teen. Once an adult becomes involved, it is referred to as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, which are crimes that can lead to jail time and other legal consequences. It is not considered cyber-bullying when adults try to lure children into offline meetings. This is considered sexual exploitation or luring by a sexual predator.
What is Cyber-bullying? In a 2006 poll by the National Organization Fight Crime, 1/3 teens and 1/6 preteens are victims of cyber-bullying. The incident of cyber-bullying increases with more access to technology. Sometimes, it is easy to identify cyber-bullying through cruel texts, tweets, or status updates. However, other times it is less obvious. Bullies will post information with the intention to hurt or embarrass others. Some bullies will establish fake accounts with the goal to harass or bully. Others may cyber-bully without even realizing it. For example, a victim may misunderstand the tone of a message intended by the sender.
Two Kinds of Cyber-bullyingDirect Attacks Cyber-bullying by proxy Bullies send messages directly The bully uses others to help to the victim. cyber-bully the victim. Their accomplice may or may not know they are siding with the bully. For example, the cyber-bully may pretend to be the victim by making a new account, or hacking the victim’s account, and posting images or text online.
Effects of Cyber-Bullying With all the technology available, cyber- bullying can occur 24 hours a day. More access to phones, computers, or other devices can increase the risk. Victims of cyber-bullying should keep in mind that many bully only to boost their self-esteem or maintain their ego, not because there is something “wrong” with the victim. Chronic cyber-bullying can increase anxiety, depression, and other stress- related disorders. It rarely, but can, lead to suicide. Punishment can include suspension from school or sports teams. However, when schools get involved, they are often sued for violating the students’ right to free speech. Cyber-bullying can also lead to a misdemeanor cyber-bullying charge. If a bully is young enough, they will be cited for juvenile delinquency.
Signs of Cyber-Bullying Many who experience cyber-bullying are reluctant to seek help because they feel ashamed, or they do not want to lose access to technology. Victims may experience emotional distress after using digital devices or become withdrawn from their friends or activities. They may avoid going to school, and their grades may slip. Victims may experience changes in their mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite. Being secretive of their digital life and acting out in anger at home are additional signs of cyber-bullying.
What Can You Do to Stop Cyber-Bullying? Parents should talk to their children and explain to them that it is not his/her fault. They should also discuss the importance of privacy. Explain to your child that they should not share personal information or passwords. Before parents report the problem to the school, they should let their child know. Parents can set up parental controls to monitor the messages their child is receiving. Parents can also utilize therapy to help their child. Children should save degrading messages and print hard copies to show to a parent/ trusted adult. They should prevent fighting back to cyber-bullying, since many bully just to elicit a reaction from the victim. However, there is no one size fits all approach to help minimize cyber-bullying. Like every cyber-bullying incident differs, the response to bullying should also differ.
What Children Can Doto Stop Cyber-BullyingThe child can block thebully or choose todelete/ignore themessages sent to them.The child can report theproblem or abuse to theonline service provider.
Children Aren’t the Only Ones Who are Bullied In August, 2011 an article was published that describes a meeting of 800 delegates for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to discuss school policies. They wanted to establish clear policies about publishing unauthorized digital recordings and photos of teachers online. There were instances where students were instigating the teachers, then recording and posting videos of their angry-responses online without their consent. As we can see, children are not the only ones who experience bullying.
If You Know/Are a Bully… If you are a parent of a bully, you should talk firmly about the negative impacts of bullying, and discuss with your child how it is unacceptable and DOES have consequences. A parent can restrict the use of digital devices to prevent cyber-bullying. To help your child cope with anger, sadness, or frustration, you may set up counseling or therapy for them. It is always a good idea to model good online habits. If you know someone is being bullied, stick up for them. To prevent becoming a bully yourself, if something online angers you, wait to calm down before you post anything.
How I (as a teacher) Would Prevent Cyber-Bullying As a future educator, I would prevent cyber-bullying by discussing with students the negative impacts of bullying. I would explain to my students how nearly everyone has experienced bullying in some way. Even bullies are often bullied. Kids often change roles between the “victim” and “bully.” I would have volunteers share their experiences of being bullied, so others can see the detrimental effects bullying can have on an individual. I would print off guidelines to help students prevent becoming a bully themselves. I would encourage my students to come to me for advice if they are experiencing cyber-bullying.