Bullying is defined as intimidating someone who is weaker than you. Bullying traditionally took place on the school playground, when there were more students than teachers and supervision was minimal. And while bullying leaves emotional scars, students were able to escape from the teasing at the end of the day. Cyberbullying, harrassing someone online or via text messages. offers no escape.
This inability to get away from a bully is one of the reasons researchers believe that cyberbullying is much more stressful than face-to-face bullying. According to Elizabeth Carll Ph.D., victims of cyberbullying have "high levels of ongoing stress, anxiety, fear, nightmares, shock and disbelief, helplessness, hyper-vigilance, changes in eating and sleeping difficulties." Dr. Carll believes the stress that results from cyberbullying is more intense and more devastating to victims. [Dealing with Cyberworld's Dark Side, 2011, ScienceDaily.com]
A presentation by YeoJu Chung, Ph.D. at the American Psychological Association's 119th Annual Convention indicated that 36 percent of students had been a victim of cyberbullying within the past year. According to the presentation, students felt "socially anxious, lonely, frustrated, sad and helpless." [Dealing with Cyberworld's Dark Side, 2011, ScienceDaily.com] The students with the most negative reactions were ones who did not know who the bully was because anonymous messages were left online on blogs or message boards.
Cyberbullying can and does happen through many different avenues. The following are some of the ways children bully others with digital media:
- Instant messages and texting including forwarding pictures - sending hateful or threatening messages, sending inappropriate pictures, such as nude pictures, of someone to all their friends-this can go "viral" meaning that thousands of people can see picture within hours of it first being sent
- Text attacks - sending thousands of texts to a person's cell phone
- Stealing passwords - stealing a password to a social networking site and using it to post inappropriate comments, chat with others under the person's name or say hateful things to someone while pretending to be someone else, changing profiles to include inappropriate descriptions or locking someone out of their own account
- Blogs and websites - using a personal blog to degrade or criticize another person or creating a website that insulting to a specific person or posting inappropriate pictures on the site, creating polls about others on websites
- Interactive gaming - using lewd or foul language while playing games on X-Box live or other live gaming devices or intentionally kicking someone out of the game
- Sending viruses or other malicious code - sending viruses or spyware via email to intentionally harm the other person's computer or spy on what they are doing online, sometimes even being able to control the other person's computer
- Forwarding pornography through texts or emails - besides forwarding lewd pictures, cyberbullies will sometimes sign their victim up at multiple pornography sites so they are getting hundreds of emails from these sites
There are many more ways to bully someone through cell phones and online. Parents need to be vigilant about monitoring online activity and keep communication open with their children. Teens especially feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about this, because of a fear that their internet privledges will be taken away, they will get in trouble or their parents will make matters worse by calling attention to what is going on.
If your child is being threatened or if contact information has been posted online, contact your local police department. Cyberbullying is a crime and your local police should be able to help. Be sure to print out all of the messages or online information about your child and bring it with you to file a report. If your child has not been physically threatened but is emotionally impacted by the cyberbullying, talking with a therapist might help. Some children have commited suicide because of the emotional pain of being bullied online.
You might also want to speak with your child's guidance counselor and let her her know what is going on. She can pay attention in school to make sure your child is not being bullied in person as well. Schools are limited to what they can do when the cyberbullying takes place off of school grounds
"Cyberbullying," U.S. Department of Health Resources and Servics Administration
"Dealing with Cyberworld's Dark Side, 2011, Aug 8, ScienceDaily.com
"Electronic Aggression/Cyberbullying,"2009. FindYouthInfo.gov