In Our Connected Digital Age Bullies
Have a New Weapon With Which to Torment Their Targets
Home sweet home is no longer a sanctuary
into which victims of bullying can escape their tormentors. Bullies can now stalk their prey after school hours
long after their targets have gone home.
Social isolation, public humiliation and malicious
gossip have long been the stock in trade of bullies.
With the the advent of modern communications such
as email, chat, text messaging and cell phones as
well as the ability to publish online on websites,
blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook
and MySpace making their message instantly available
to millions, the bully's reach and powers of social
manipulation have been increased exponentially.
Attacks of Adult Cyberbullying Cross the Line
and Enter the "Real World"
this story from a former cyberbully who,
after mending her ways, found herself the target
of a vicious adult cyberbullying campaign.
What is Cyber Bullying?
involves the use of information and communication
technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and
pager text messages, instant messaging (IM),
defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory
online personal polling Web sites, to support
deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour
by an individual or group, that is intended
to harm others." – Bill Belsey,
Parents are well advised to pay close attention to
how this new threat can impact their children. We
have already seen too many cases of children subjected
to a cyber bullying attack who have been so traumatized
that they have committed suicide as a direct result.
is the term that has been used to describe suicides
caused by relentless bullying. "Cyberbullycide",
to coin a phrase, would describe someone driven to
suicide following a cyberbullying attack.
In the book Bullycide
In America: Moms speak out about the bullying/suicide
connection, compiled by Brenda High, the story
of Jeffery Johnston serves as a warning to other parents
about cyber bullying.
Jeffrey's mother Debbie Johnston writes,
"A bully doesn’t have to be eye
to eye to bully someone. Sometimes he or she gets
into cyberspace, and then there’s no place
to hide from their torment.
With the keyboard as his weapon, the bully violated
the sanctity of my home and murdered my child just
as surely as if he had crawled through a broken
window and choked the life from Jeff with his bare
hands. It was not a death that was quick and merciful.
It was carried out with lies, rumors and calculated
cruelty portioned out day by day.”
Cyber bullies, like any bully, want to feel power
and control over their victim. They want to get under
their victim's skin. Many kids live and breathe the
internet. It is essential to how they see themselves
and how they socialize with their peers. The computer
is as essential a social tool today as the telephone
was decades ago.
This is part of why a cyber bullying attack can be
so devastating. Cyber bullies cut to the core of their
victim's social life and self image. Targets are faced
with threats and intimidation in emails and instant
messages, but it is not only fear that the cyber bully
can instill over the web.
The potential for public humiliation has been expanded
from a target's classmates or school to effectively
the entire world, or at least the wired world. Cyberbullies
have created websites dedicated to insulting, mocking
and humiliating their prey in the most vicious way
possible. To be humiliated in front of a classroom
of students is bad enough but to be humiliated for
the amusement of thousands is more than most kids
The target becomes the laughing stock for the entire
school as word is spread at the speed of light over
broadband connections about the latest humiliating
website update, blog post or video upload.
It's not good enough anymore for bullies to simply
beat up their victims. With digital video becoming
ubiquitous beatings are now digitally recorded and
uploaded so everyone can have a front row seat and
the bloodlust can be enjoyed again and again.
How can cyber bullies be so heartless? Perhaps the
internet lends itself to this indifference. Bullies
don't have to see their victims or answer for their
actions. Like the cowards they are they hide behind
their computers - behind a veil of anonymity.
Even though the effects of cyberbullying can be every
bit as dangerous as offline bullying, if not more
so, you as a parent are even less likely to hear about
it happening to your child.
To understand why you have to understand how important
access to the internet is for many kids. They will
remain silent about cyberbullying because they are
afraid if their parents find out they will go off
the deep end and cut off access to their computer,
internet and/or mobile phone.
Years ago this would be the equivalent of a child
who complained of bullying being grounded and losing
their telephone privileges! Loss of internet access
would be deemed by many kids now to be the cruelest
of punishments. Try not to over-react, it is the bully
not the victim who should be punished.
How to Deal With Cyber Bullying
So what should you do to deal with cyber
How do you stop cyber bullying?
First, Do Not Respond to the Cyber Bully's Attacks
The first step is to stop responding to the cyber
bully. Do not reply to emails, posts, IM's or text
messages. This is what the bully wants. They want
you to engage with them. They want to manipulate you
If you respond in any way that is emotional or lets
them know that they are getting to you and are able
to make you upset it only encourages the cyber bully.
Remember, bullies often suffer from low self-esteem
and they want to feel better about themselves. Instead
of doing something positive or succeeding at something
or making a new friend a bully has learned to make
themselves feel better by controlling, abusing and
tearing down others. This gives them a sense of control
and power they don't have in their lives. Most bullies
are actually quite weak and the same is true of cyber
If you respond in a way that lets the bully know
that you are angry, upset or afraid they will only
be happy because they have managed to control your
emotional state. Even if you do feel like that don't
give the cyber bully the satisfaction and encouragement
by letting them know.
It is especially important to not respond emotionally
because this could make you send a reply that you
might regret later. Messages sent on the internet
are almost impossible to take back. If you lash back
in anger you could find yourself the one who is being
accused of being a cyber bully and the tables could
be turned against you.
Bullies are hoping to get you upset so you slip up
and make a mistake. Don't send flames and don't get
into flame wars. (Flames are nasty, sometimes threatening
Don't Delete Information Related to the Cyber Bullying
While you should not respond to the cyber bully online
(or offline) you should also not delete their messages.
That's right, do NOT delete their messages.
Cyber bullies are especially cowardly and like to
hide behind the anonymity that the internet gives
them. Or does it? Messages sent on the internet are
traceable. Make sure to keep all messages as the police
will be able to use this information to track down
the culprit. Do not delete any messages and save as
much information you can about chats, IM's, text messages,
blog posts, websites, etc.
This will also help show just how often the cyber
bullying takes place, at what times and even from
which location. Every computer, server and device
connected over the (TCP/IP) network has a unique IP
(Internet Protocol) address. Police along with the
cyber bully's ISP (Internet Service Provider) can
use this information to trace the bully right to his
or her house.
Report the Cyber Bulling to ISP, Police and Schools
You need to let appropriate authorities know about
the cyber bullying or they cannot take corrective
action. Cyberbullying is not something you want to
ignore. It is your responsibility to report this behavior
so the perpetrators can be dealt with.
This helps to not only protect your child but to
intervene before the cyber bully harms even more kids.
Bullies often behave in a serial fashion attacking
multiple victims either at the same time or one after
another. Once the high of abusing one victim is over
they move to their next prey.
Report cyber bullying to your internet, instant
messaging or mobile phone provider.
While some providers may not take swift action it
is still important to establish that incidents of
cyberbullying are taking place and that it has been
recorded as a complaint. This will provide greater
impetus for them to take cyberbullying more seriously
if further reports are made or others complain about
the same person.
Report cyber bullying to the local police.
Let the police know what is happening. Depending
on the actions taken by the cyber bully they may have
crossed the line. Laws regarding bullying and cyber
bullying are finally being passed.
While bullies may have had a free ride up until now
they are more and more running into the long arm of
the law. Cyber bullying needs to be brought to the
attention of the police. Be sure to provide them with
as much information as you can. They can then contact
the cyber bully's ISP and track them down.
Inform Your Child's School if Cyber Bully
is a Student
While the school administration may say they have
no legal obligation as the bullying is taking place
outside of school hours and off school property many
schools are adopting code of conduct type contracts
with their students and parents.
This allows for schools to take action in such cases
where the bullying still impacts on another student
while they are at school. Targets of cyberbullying
are traumatized and often lose focus on their schoolwork
as a direct result of the harassment.
Even if your child's school does not have such a
policy they still need to be made aware of the abuse
so they can be alerted to potential further bullying
that may be taking place while your child is at school.
Be Aware of What Your Child is Doing on the Internet
Above all it is vital to keep up with what is going
on in your child's world. More and more a large part
of that world involves online activities and communication.
You have to ask the same questions about the internet
as you do in the real world when it comes to your
children. What are they doing and who are they doing
If you need to, take a computer course to understand
more about the wired world. Many kids know far more
than their parents about computers and they can keep
you in the dark, only letting you know what they want
you to know.
Letting your kids spend countless hours on the internet
cloistered away in their bedroom, away from prying
eyes and interruptions from mom and dad is not recommended.
Keep the computer in a common area. Talk with them
about what they are doing and with whom they are communicating.
What Do Your Parenting "Spider Senses"
Pay close attention to your kids. Are they acting
strangely? Are there unexplained pictures or odd messages?
Are they having trouble sleeping or falling behind
at school? Do they seem depressed or more aggressive?
Are they being evasive and not want you to know who
they are talking to or do they close windows on their
computer screen whenever you come near. Don't ignore
what your parenting "spider senses" are
telling you. If you think something is wrong don't
wait until it is too late.
Cyber bulling can be every bit as dangerous as bullying;
more so in some cases. Awareness is the key. Keep
open communication lines with your children so they
will feel comfortable enough to tell you. They need
to know that cyber bullying is not their fault. It
is not because of something wrong with them. The fault
and the problem both lay with the cyber bully.
For further reading about cyber bullying:
Cyber Bullying Books
Cyber Bullying: The New Face of Bullying
www.cyberbullying.org or www.cyberbullying.ca in Canada
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