Russell A. Sabella, Ph.D.
(Some parts of this article have been deleted to fit the webpage.)
Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone, text messaging, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.” It seems to be even worse than live bullying because the perpetrators are not bound my time or space, and the audience can be much, much bigger. With the power of technology, the offenses can be much more cruel as they can incorporate a rich array of media (sounds, altered graphics, text, video, slide shows, and photos) to deliver the attacks. ................................
............Here is how kids bully each other in a high-tech world.
- * Exclusion: Exclusion is the process of designating who is a member of the “in-group” and who is an “outcast.” In some cases, this is done by who has a mobile phone and who has not. Students, particularly girls, will also omit certain other girls from e-mail lists, chat room conversations and so on.
- * Flaming: Flaming is a heated argument, frequently including offensive or vulgar language, that occur in public communication environments, such as discussion boards or groups, chat, or newsgroups. Flamers may use capitol letters and a range of visual images and symbols to add emotional intensity and anger to their messages. According to the Wikipedia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_war), a flame may have elements of a normal message, but is distinguished by its intent. A flame is typically not intended to be constructive, to further clarify a discussion, or to persuade other people. The motive for flaming is often not dialectic, but rather social or psychological. Sometimes, flamers are attempting to assert their authority, or establish a position of superiority. Occasionally, flamers wish to upset and offend other members of the forum, in which case they are “trolls.” Most often however, flames are angry or insulting messages transmitted by people who have strong feelings about a subject. ..........
- * Outing: this includes the public display, posting, or forwarding of personal communication or images, especially communication that contains sensitive personal information or images that are sexual in nature. Increasingly, images taken using mobile phone cameras and mobile phone text messages are used as part of outing bullying. Reading the saved text messages on other’s phones can also be part of the outing process;
- * Cyberstalking: includes threats of harm, intimidation and/or offensive comments which are sent through personal communication channels. Frequently with cyberstalking there is a threat, or at least a belief, that the virtual could become real stalking.
- * E-mail: One student sends a threatening e-mail to another, then forwards it to additional people.
- * Harassment: Sending hurtful messages to someone in a severe, persistent, or pervasive manner.
- * Instant Messaging (IM): several students log on to an IM platform (e.g., America Online's Instant Messenger) and simultaneously “slam” another.
- * Websites: bullies set up derogatory Web sites dedicated to one or more victims.
- * Impersonation: in other cases, students may impersonate other students and make unpopular online comments, even set up websites that include hate leading to the impersonated student being ostracized or further bullied in more traditional ways.
- * Voting/Polling Booths: Some Web sites offer users the opportunity to create online polling/voting booths, many at no cost. Cyberbullies can use these Web sites to create web pages that allow others to vote online for "The Ugliest , Fattest, Dumbest etc. Boy/Girl at their respective schools.
Children seem to view the real world and the online or virtual world as part of a seamless continuum. Conversations with friends may begin at school and pick up again, on a child’s computer, after dinner, or vice versa. Unfortunately, this is also true of bullying behaviors. What begins as a flame war in an Instant Messaging conversation can carry over to the lunch room the next day and include many of the same group members witnessing the electronic conversation the night before.
What to do if you suspect cyberbullying?
You may notice that your child is acting a bit odd and wonder what is going on with him or her. Know first of all that pre-adolescence and especially adolescence (the teenager years) can be weird time for everyone even under “normal” circumstances. Still, you may notice a deviation from what you are used to or perhaps extreme changes, especially one or more of the following:
- * Your child is using their computer late at night more than usual.
- * Your child's grades are declining.
- * He or she is misbehaving in school more than usual.
- * Changes in ordinary daily activities and conditions such as eating, sleeping, mood swings, etc.
- * Your child appears upset after Internet use. Or, in general seems more anxious and fearful, especially as it relates to school attendance.
- * There is some evidence that your child is covering their online tracks.
If your child is being cyber-bullied:
- * Don’t freak out. Stay calm and maintain open communication with your child. Let them know that you trust and support them. Also work with trusted adults at school such as a principal, teacher, or school counselor.
- * If they are being bullied, explain that taking vengeance is not solving the problem and that it could make the situation worse.
- * Help your child to keep all records including chat transcripts, photos, website pages, emails (including full headers) as evidence for future use.
- * Inform the perpetrators Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone service provider of the abuse.
- * If you can communicate to the perpetrators and their parents, explain to them that what they are doing is cyberbullying and that you will report to the authorities if it continues. You see, some kids may not recognize what they are doing is bullying and may believe that it is innocent play. Using the word “bullying” serves as a wake up call.