Pulling the Plug on Online BulliesFebruary 23, 2011, by uninterrupted.tv
Studies indicate that as many as 6 in 10 kids have been cyberbullied—using electronic communication such as text or the internet to bully. Bullying certainly isn’t new, but in the internet age, there are some new issues with the problem. In the past few years there have been a number of teen suicides that have been directly related to cyberbullying. Why is cyberbullying different?
Traditional bullying involves the threat of physical violence. Certainly a threat like “meet me at the flag pole at 3 o’clock” can now be communicated by post, IM, email, or text. “Cyberbulling,” on the other hand, is usually entirely verbal. But because the internet and texting is everywhere, cyberbulling can be much more intimidating and frustrating because the bully does not have to be near you to do it, and they can do it nearly around the clock. So now a bully can reach a child even in their own home.
There are many different forms of cyberbullying—many of which involve conduct the perpetrator may not realize is harmful, like taking a joke or teasing too far. They may see friends doing it and think it is okay. Or, they get sent something that is mean and think that it is not bullying if all they do is pass it on, since “they didn’t come up with it.”
Sometimes cyberbullying gives a child who cannot physically threaten another a way to get revenge, or because they think that by putting someone down, it will make them feel better/smarter/more popular than their victim.
Online, there are a number of ways a bully can victimize a teen, such as posting a fake message or page as the victim. They might post mean things about the victim on their own page or someone else’s wall where many people can see it. Outing—telling secrets about the victim—is a form that often happens among former friends. And cyberstalking—repeatedly sending someone harassing or threatening messages or texts, either anonymously or by name—is also a problem.
What can a parent or teen do? First, be accountable. Make sure you (or your teen) aren’t doing any of these things. If they are, have a discussion about why. For example, would they say these same things if they were sitting across the lunch table from the person? What if there were parents or a teacher there? If they wouldn’t say it then, why not?
Second, it is important that the teen talk to someone about what is going on. Unchecked, bullying has led victims to desperate measures such as harming themselves or others. It is important to get help—and the teen may very well not be the only person the bully is picking on, so speaking up may help more than just them.
Finally, cyberbullying in some circumstances may violate criminal laws. Colorado has Criminal Impersonation, Harassment, and Stalking statutes, which can result in protection orders, probation, or even jail. Your School Resource Officer would be able to advise you on if charges are appropriate.
For more in formation on cyberbullying look it up yourself:
Gary Dawson, Deputy District Attorney, Special Victims Unit