We learned from an early age that bullies can be abusive physically or emotionally, and that they often encourage peers to act the same way towards their intended victim. The social tools of the Internet that appeal most to teens (e.g., the ability to communicate to a lot of people at once, share pictures and videos easily, or pretend to be a different personality or identity) are the tools teens use to easily and effectively humiliate others. And the potential anonymity of it all can make it difficult for parents and teens to identify and report an online bully.
How has bullying evolved?
Before Internet(or "BI"): A bully was restricted by physical location and time. They had to be pretty much standing in front of their target to deliver their verbal or physical attack. This made identifying the attacker easy. And once the victim walked away, the bullying ended.
Now: A bully can be anyone, anywhere at anytime. The Internet never sleeps. And an insulting or abusive message, once put out there, can persist forever and be seen by countless people. Plus, the Internet can be so anonymous that it may never be possible to identify an attacker, making it very difficult to stop. Finally, the bullying can continue even when the victim is safe at home. The content of the abuse follows the victim wherever they go, and can leave the teen feeling helpless.
Tools & Methods of the Cyberbully
Cyberbullying can happen in many ways. These are just some examples:
- -Sending mean text, e-mail, or instant messages
- -Posting nasty pictures or messages about others in blogs or on Web sites
- -Using someone else's user name to spread rumors or lies about someone
- -Sending repeated notes
- -Forwarding supposedly private messages, pictures or videos to others
Teach your kids how to deal with a cyberbully
Tips to avoid being a cyberbullying victim:
- -Don't give out personal information like name, address, phone number, social security number, school or even the names of family and friends. Certainly don't give out your password.
- -Don't exchange pictures or give out contact information (including email) to people you meet online.
- -Don't send a message when you are angry or upset. Once you put something out on the Internet you can't take it back. EVER.
- -Realize that anything you say or do online is never really private. If even one person can see or read it then it can be copied, saved or shared -- even if you try to remove it later.
Detecting cyberbullying and if your child is a victim:
Watch for signs that your child is being bullied online. Are they reluctant to use the computer or go to school?
- -Depending on how your child is being bullied, report any incidents of harassment to your ISP or cell phone provider.
- -Block the harassing email or IM via parental controls or privacy tools provided by your ISP.
- -Do not reply to harassing messages.
- -If bullying includes physical threats, report it to the police.