Cyberbullies rely on technology to invade homes, victimize youth
Tips regarding cyberbullying
Do not give anyone that is not familiar cell phone numbers, instant messaging names or email addresses.
Kids should be instructed that, if they are being harassed on-line, they should log out of the site and tell an adult they can trust.
When being bullied by email or instant messaging, block the sender from being able to send messages. Print a copy of any emails and report it to a trusted adult.
If bullying on-line includes physical threats, notify the authorities.
If someone else is bullying another person on-line, tell them that kind of behavior is not cool.
From The 411 Bullying, Hamilton Fish Institute, George Washington University
It's frequently difficult for adults to forget about the experiences they had with bullies when they were young.
People remember the threats, the actions, the notes at school spreading rumors.
Most people never really forget the walk home, past the bully's place, where he or she lurked.
But when a child got home, the youngster was safe. Home was the one place the bully couldn't penetrate.
But that's no longer the case.
In the day and age of blogs, e-mail and text messaging, youth face a new type of bullying, one that may be more insideous than taunts on the playgrounds or encounters in school restrooms.
Cell phones buzz and there is the text message. The computer indicates a child has mail and the message is a painful note denoting what might happen tomorrow.
One Carbon County parent recently explained how her daughter, a junior high student, was cyberbullied.
"About dinner time every night, she'd get a call or a text message on her cell phone," explained the mother. "Before that, she looked happy. Afterward, she'd turn white all evening. I couldn't tell what was wrong."
"Finally, I put the messaging and the change in her emotional state together and she admitted that someone had been calling her each night telling her what could happen to her the next day at school," indicated the local parent.
Cyberbullying is becoming more common, and it is done in different forms and in different ways.
Educators face the problems everyday. And because of technology, the problems are infiltrating homes so victims not only endure bullying at school, but face the hurtful words and threats 24 hours a day.
"Cyberbullying is a big issue," explained Judy Mainord of Carbon School District. "It is very serious."
In fact, some experts believe prolonged exposure to the intimation may be more serious than traditional bullying.
Cyberbullies use all types of electronic media to reach victims.
E-mailing and text messaging allow youth to put things in writing without direct confrontation with recipients.
Several negative actions make e-mailing or texting particularly nasty.
The negative actions include:
Flaming involves online fights using electronic messages with angry or vulgar language that cannot be heard by anyone in authority.
Flaming can escalate into physical altercations at school The angry parties frequently prepare for the fight beforehand and may decide to bring more than fists to the confrontations.
Harrassment involves sending mean and insulting messages continually.
The bullies also recruit accomplices and even people they don't know to send nasty things to the recipient.
Frequently, children who are not involved directly in the bullying incident join in "just for fun."
Denigration involves spreading gossip, rumors or stories about a person to others, and, of course, to the victim as well.
Impersonation involves sending inappropriate things out into the virtual world as the person who is the victim of the bullying, getting the innocent child into trouble.
Outing involves giving out secrets or embarassing information to others via digital communication networks.
Outing is one of the reasons schools have banned cell phone cameras from locker rooms and restrooms.
Trickery involves using a built up relationship to get information from someone, then revealing that information via a Web site, e-mail or text messaging.
Exclusion involvrs using popularity power to exclude certain individuals from cyber groups.
Cyberstalking involves continued threats or harrassment .
The hreats can cause significant fear in victims.
Often one or any of these can grow into a direct, in-person physical confrontation.
Cyberbullying can also take on a whole group of victims - youth who are different.
For instance, one individual may set up a poll to vote for the ugliest girl in the school. Or the person may vote on which boy is the biggest geek.
In the past, victims of personal physical or mental bullying had little recourse of what to do about it other than to tell someone in authority. Most felt helpless.
But technology has provided the victims a chance to bully back by using the internet and other technologies. Most educators know that two wrongs don't make a right.
Cyberbullying can eat away at another child's self concept and suggest the victim isn't worthy of living. Some bullies may even suggest that suicide would be a way out of the pain.
Bullying was complicated in the old days, but has become 10 fold what it was then with the advent of technology for communication. To a large extent it is because the internet has been a venue for games and entertainment and the feeling amongst many kids is that it is not real because it is virtual reality. Terms like "they can't see me," "I can't see them," and "life online is just a game," are some of the explanations officials get when they question kids about intimidation they have perpetrated on-line. For some kids the virtual world they experience in games extends to their use of communications with others.
In defense of themselves one of the most common defenses that kids have when caught is that they have the right to free speech and can post anything they want on the web or on email. Schools have also gotten into the conundrum concerning civil rights and when they can search private internet records and files.
Civil laws also provide for lawsuits against bullies and their parents for damages, using parental liability laws that allows someone who is damaged by the actions of their minor child to hold the parents accountable financially. Suits on defamation, invasion of privacy, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress on another person are some of the grounds for suits. In some cases criminal law is also violated by actions of those that are cyberbullying.
However, on the basic level, bullying is bullying, and states and school districts, including Carbon, across the country are trying to deal with all the different types.
"We are working on a bullying prevention survey that was put together by one of the foremost authorities on measurement and control of the problem," said Mainord. "With the adoption of the new policy before the board of education and with the information we will get from the survey we will be working on a school by school basis to fix problems in Carbon School District."
Mainord says the survey, which will be given to students either at the end of this school year or at the beginning of next, will be anonymous and will address the problems of all kinds of bullying, including cyberbullying.
"It will measure such things as where they get bullied, how they get bullied, how often it happens and the extent to which it happens," she said. "Then we can build a climate where that kind of behavior is just unacceptable."
Editors note: Today's story is the second in a series of three articles addressing the problems associated with bullying in schools.