Cyberbullying & Cyberbulling vs. Online Predators
What is Cyberbullying?Cyberbullying, a growing problem among children and teenagers today, happens when a person hurts or bullies another person through the use of cell phones, computers, or other electronic equipment. That means that mean text messages, rude instant messages, and threatening emails are all examples of cyberbullying if they’re hurtful on purpose, and especially if they’re sent repeatedly. Computers and cell phones makes this different from traditional “schoolyard” bullying because it allows the sender to be unknown if he wants to be; and bullies sometimes take advantage of this by signing onto new or unfamiliar screen names or email addresses to harass others. This makes the experience even more confusing and upsetting for the victims- they don’t know who the bully is, and they can’t fight back.
Cyberbullying isn’t just a fight with a friend over text message, and it isn’t just having someone ignore your instant messages. It’s online harassment, and some girls may not even know that they’re doing it, especially on sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Leaving a hurtful comment, whether private or public, on a friend or classmate’s MySpace is cyberbullying, and so is posting an embarrassing picture of them without their knowledge on Facebook. Even if the bully meant for the post or message to be a joke, the acts are serious and can leave the targets with long-lasting emotional problems. According to Dr. Justin W. Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja, two leading cyberbullying experts, victims of cyberbullying have reported feeling depressed, violated, helpless, “stupid,” and unsafe (www.cyberbullying.us).
In fact, cyber-bullying is so serious that it’s been rated as the number-one school trouble for children and teenagers between the ages of 8 and 15. It’s a problem among all adolescents- boys as well as girls- but it’s twice as likely for a girl to be a victim, and twice as likely for her to be a bully as well. Interestingly, it has been shown that bullying creates more bullies: one out of four victims retaliates by beginning to bully too, either by fighting back or after choosing a different victim. It sets the example that a girl has to be tough, or even mean, to avoid being hurt, when in reality this is far from the truth.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deal with cyberbullying, and several things that adults can do to help (while still respecting a girl’s privacy). See below for information on methods and strategies to keep the bullies at bay, and click the link below to see what part you play in cyberbullying.
What a Girl Can DoThese steps can help you deal with cyberbullying.
Make sure you’re not bullying anyone yourself. Stop the problem at the source! Even if you’re just kidding around, the person you’re talking to might not take it as a joke, so be careful of what you say.
Simply ignore messages from an unfamiliar screen name, especially if the user won’t tell you who he/she is. You wouldn’t you open your front door to a stranger. Use the same rule online.
Remember that nothing on the Internet is truly private. Messages sent and received can be seen by parents at home and teachers at school. Even if messages are deleted, the police have ways to find and read them. This is also true of text messages, so be careful not to give out any personal information or passwords- even if you are talking to someone you know.
Join clubGEN here! Meet up, have fun, and learn about the dangers of cyberbullying and other teen issues from high school girls who have been through it all themselves!
If you do receive unfriendly messages or comments, block sender’s screen name, email address, or MySpace/Facebook page. For Facebook or MySpace, go to “Account Settings” and then “Privacy.” For most email programs, go to “My Account” or “Settings” first. There should then be an option such as “Privacy Preferences” or “Member Privacy,” where you can go to change your privacy settings. If needed, ask a parent or other adult to help you with this.
Many Internet companies have rules about online behavior, and will cut off internet service from any account that breaks them. Read these rules and be familiar with them: not only will you know how not to break the rules yourself, but if you catch a bully breaking them, you can report him/her to the company.
Protect your privacy by keeping your information private! If your MySpace and Facebook profiles aren’t public, bullies can’t see your information (unless you grant them permission, but that’s just common sense). It’s a good idea to keep your profile settings on private anyways. Even if you aren’t worried about cyberbullying, it’s not a good idea to give strangers access to your information.
If you’re cyberbullied and it becomes a major problem it may be a good idea to change your information (screen name, email address, profile, etc).
Get out of public chatrooms! Only accept chatroom invitations from friends and people you know, and don’t talk to strangers. There’s no way to be sure that an online stranger is telling you the truth about who he/she is, so it’s best to just avoid people you don’t know well. This means deleting emails from people you don’t know, too.
If the sender is just being obnoxious or annoying, you don’t have to tell a parent. However, you should confide in a friend or someone else you trust about what’s been happening so you know you’re not alone.
If the bully becomes threatening, or if you feel violated, upset, or afraid, tell a parent immediately. Online harassment is serious, and cyber stalking- a more serious form of cyberbullying which usually only happens to adults- is illegal. Talk to a parent or other authority figure, and figure out which steps to take next.
If you know a friend is cyberbullying, begin a conversation about it and encourage him/her to stop.
How Parents and Educators Can HelpThese steps can help you if your child is being cyberbullied.
Encourage children to maintain and protect their privacy, especially on MySpace/Facebook. They still get all the networking benefits of the programs, and only a group of approved friends can view their profiles and information.
Set up boundaries regarding Internet use and establish rules with the child about time spent online and sites that he/she is allowed to visit.
Keep an eye on Internet use. Many school districts have blocked social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. While parents may or may not feel inclined to do the same, awareness of an adolescent’s Internet activity can keep them out of the wrong places (and away from the wrong people).
Kid-safe web browsers can protect children from inadvertently entering unsafe sites, forums, and chatrooms. Many school districts have adopted this measure as well.
Stay informed about cyberbullying, and keep children up to speed on the issue as well. Not only does this educate everyone about how to deal with and avoid cyberbullying, but it opens lines of communication if a problem arises in the future.
Sign your daughter up for clubGEN here, where they can socialize with friends and classmates, learn to protect herself online and in life, and receive support from high school girls in a positive and empowering atmosphere.
Teachers can ensure that cell phones are turned off and put away during school. Banning cell phone use from a school environment eliminates the problems that it can bring. Students will be unable to bully each other via text message, and their attention will be free for class.
If you’re a parent and your child approaches you about being cyberbullied, remember that your child and the technology are not at fault. Your child has probably done nothing wrong or even out of the ordinary. Restricting his/her access to the technology, rather than confronting the issue, leaves the problem unresolved and may strain your relationship with your child.
If a child is being cyberbullied, advise him/her not to respond and save the evidence of bullying (message, picture, email, etc).
Try to identify the perpetrator, even if you don’t personally intervene. However, if the bullying occurs at school, the administration or school district may be legally obligated to step in.
Help the child block technological contact with the bully, even if it means changing screen names or phone numbers.
If you’re a parent and your child has reported being cyberbullied, inform the school so that they can keep an eye on the student and prevent possible instances of traditional bullying.
If necessary, contact the perpetrator’s parents. Extreme cases may even call for legal action.
Cyberbulling vs. Online Predators
Cyberbullying is any kind of harassment, insults and humiliation that uses mobile, wireless or Internet-related technology in some way to hurt another child, preteen or teen. Kids or teens are on both sides of a cyberbullying.
- Know who their target is offline.
- Bullying often starts offline, and then moves into online bullying.
- Uses social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook to slander the target among other various forms of technology, such as texting.
- Cyberbullying is usually not a one time communication
- Bully knows personal information about the target, such as home address and cell phones numbers.
- There are two kinds of cyberbullying: direct attacks (messages sent to victim directly) and cyberbullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge).
An online predator is an adult Internet user who exploits vulnerable children or teens, usually for sexual or other abusive purposes. (“Online “predators” and their victims: Myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment”. American Psychologist)
- Do not necessarily know their targets offline.
- Can use social networking, blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging, e-mail, discussion boards, and other Web sites to find targets.
- Try to connect with their target through the latest music, interested hobbies, and listening and sympathizing with the target’s problems.
- Online Predator does not necessarily know personal information about target, such as address or phone number unless target gives the information.
- Try to ease young people’s inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their conversations or by showing them sexually explicit material