As if the presence of traditional bullying in our schools and neighborhoods weren’t enough, there’s now a new mean kid on the block. Cyberbullying, also called cyber harassment, includes the use of cell phones, the Internet, and related technologies to harm other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile or harassing manner. This is a growing problem facing today’s young people, with the widespread use of computers and cell phones among young people.
Recent studies on cyber bullying have revealed that:
• 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 25% of them have had it happen more than once.
• 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 20% have had it happen more than once.
• 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
• Over half of the kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 40% say it isn’t just an isolated incident.
• More than half of the teenagers surveyed admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. 33% have done it more than once.
• 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
Digital communication has created a new way to bully. Moreover, cyberspace facilitates bullying by some kids and teens who might not have had the courage to be overt bullies. Cyberbullying and regular bullying are related. Nearly ¾ of the cyberbullies are also traditional bullies. They often use the same bullying techniques. The other 1/4 bully only in cyberspace.
The classic bully in the real world is often physically domineering. These bullies are often popular but fearsome. In cyberspace, you don’t have to be physically tough to be a bully.
Like traditional bullies, cyberbullies are lacking in empathy, social intelligence, relational aggression, and often school achievement.
Why do they bully? For much the same reasons bullies behave that way in the real world: power, control, popularity, status, attention, because they can and it amuses them to do so.
Who are these new mean kids on the block? Cyberbullies, like traditional bullies, are most often peers, friends, and/or classmates. As in the regular bullying realm, cyberbullies are more often boys and cybervictims are more often girls.
[box_light]Why do Cyberbullies Bully?
Peer acceptance and jealousy were common motives. For girls, jealousy was often related to cliques.
• Revenge is also a motive. Cyberbullies often want to get back at someone who said something out of line at school or after a breakup
• It amuses them to bully.
• Cyberbullying gives bullies control or power over people and/or situations.
• Cyberbullying provides a feeling of dominance, and attention.[/box_light]
Studies indicated a lot of cyberbullying is done through instant messaging. Social networking websites like Facebook were used rather frequently. Emailing and text messaging were also common. Phone calls were also a frequent site of cyberbullying. Some kids reported being bullied through Internet games. Picture and video clip bullying through mobile phone, and YouTube were also mentioned.
The cyberbullies said, did, or sent something to bully their victims. In our study, we also found the following trends:
• Name calling was often used.
• Cyberbullies in our sample almost never used ignoring and excluding.
• Besides calling names, humiliation and down talking were used to hurt the cybervictim. Threatening a cybervictim also occurred.
• Rumor spreading, displaying a humiliating picture or video, expressing sexually- oriented messages, and faking messages sent on another’s email were also used.
While we do not and cannot condone cyber bullying, we have to be resigned to the fact that the technology is here to stay. Our children spend much of their connected. Surveys indicate that 15% of teens spend 5 or more hours per day on the Internet. Most of this time is spent playing games, surfing the web, sending e-mails, and instant messaging.
1/3 of teens have their own web site. At least 10% have a secret e-mail address their parents don’t know about. Kids can develop hundreds of online relationships from casual acquaintanceship to close friendship.
In a nutshell, it’s a whole new cyber world out there! It is a subculture unknown to grownups. We know nothing about the values, norms, and attitudes in this brave new cyber world.
Helping Kids use the Computer Safely:
The best defense is a good offence. Talk to kids about the dangers of the Internet. Help them become aware of the existence of cyberbullying and encourage them to share cyberbullying incidents with a trusted adult: parents, teachers…
• Talk about safe ways to use the computer, including Internet safety, privacy, and sharing information online. Decide upon reasonable rules about computer use.
• Put the computer in a public place in the home, place two or more chairs close by, and set up a password that only parents know.
• Find out the places your child visits. Go to the sites. Ask your child to navigate you through his online space. Experience this part of your child’s life.
• Talk with your child about good manners online. Teach the golden rule of techno-communications: Don’t say or do anything online that you would not say or do in ‘real life.’ Online harassment is just as hurtful as real-life bullying.
How do you Handle a Bullying Message?
If child tells you that he is being bullied online your first response may be anger and alarm.
Don’t express anger. This may make your child feel he is to blame.
Cyberbullying is hurtful. It’s okay for parents can to feel hurt about it too.
Encourage your child to stay in control and not return harassment with angry or threatening messages. This will only exacerbate the harassment.
Show your empathy by saying something supportive like: “These seem like really hurtful messages.” Assure your child that no matter what has happened, he does not deserve to be treated this way.
Do not remove cell phone or computer privileges. Your child will see this as punishment.
Read materials on cyber bullying with your child and talk about what ideas seem helpful. (See resources list.)
Try to get your child involved in more face-to-face activities like sports, clubs, sleepovers, outings to boost confidence and socialization skills.
Attempt to uncover the source of the cyberbullying. Harassment violates the terms of service of most websites. If another user is persistently victimizing your child, your child should report that user to the site administrator.
Seek support for yourself as well. Talk to your friends about the issue and find out how they managed or would manage this type of situation. Consider talking to a teacher or principal at your child’s school. Find out how your child feels about this.
What if your Child is the Cyberbully?
Children may send harassing messages for many reasons. Calmly ask about reasons for this behaviour, without grilling your child, and try to confirm the facts. If your child tries to minimize the messages, confront her with the impact it has on others.
Address the reasons for the bullying. Perhaps your child wanted revenge, does not like the person, or wanted to get attention from others. Discuss other ways of dealing with these problems.
Be sure to model positive behaviour for healthy conflict resolution: calm down, identify the problem, explore and evaluate solutions, then take action to resolve the conflict.
Use fair and reasonable consequences to discipline your child. These strategies should focus on repairing the harm that was done to the targeted child, if possible. Remind your child that it is a breach of contract with the Internet service provider to send threatening messages and the contract could be terminated.
As much as possible, regularly monitor your child’s online behaviour. Station the computer in a central place like the kitchen or the family room. NOT in your child’s bedroom where you cannot easily monitor what is going on.
Invite family discussions about hurtful and acceptable behaviors. These discussions may be more meaningful at calm and quiet times of the day when everyone is relaxed. Emphasize everyone’s rights to feel safe and respected, regardless of his or her characteristics.
Involve your child in volunteer, sports, or leisure activities she enjoys to encourage positive and pro-social interactions.
Communicate with your child’s teacher to encourage consistent messages about bullying and harassment between home and school.
Make sure your child understands that what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet – forever. It may feel private because messages can be sent from a private location, but in fact it is the most public medium in existence.
Do you have experience with Cyberbullying? We’d love to hear from you!
Bauman, Sheri. (2010) Cyberbullying: What Counselors Need to Know.
Coloroso, Barbara. The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander. (chapter on cyberbullying).
Cyberbullying (2011) movie downloadable from http://www.abcfamily.go.com/movies/cyberbully/
Teen girl Taylor Hillridge gets a laptop for her birthday and signs up on a social networking site.
Gardner, Olivia et al. (2008) Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope
After suffering a seizure in middle school, Gardner was taunted and teased by classmates for two years. Two concerned sisters began a letter-writing campaign to bolster the girl’s spirits, and thousands responses.
Hinduja, Sameer and Patchin, Jason. (2008) Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying
Ivester, Mike. (2011) lol…OMG!: What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying
Includes information on topics such as: digital citizenship, reputation management, and responsible content creation.
Jacobs, Thomas, A. (2010) Teen Cyberbullying Investigated: Where Do Your Rights End and Consequences Begin?
Kowalski, Robin et al. (2012) Cyberbullying: Bullying in the Digital Age
Rogers, Vanessa. (2010) Cyberbullying: Activities to Help Children and Teens to Stay Safe in a Texting, Twittering, Social Networking World.
Rugby, Laura. (2009) Bad Apple
Tola Riley, a high school junior, struggles to tell the truth when she and her art teacher are accused of having an affair.