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e v e r y d a y    i s s u e s    f o r    e v e r y d a y    p e o p l e


 

By
Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., (
Florida Atlantic University)

Andrew is a typical 14 year-old kid trying to survive his first year of High School. About half way through the year he suddenly discovered that some kids at his school set up a website devoted to making hateful comments about him and his family. Doctored photographs were included with cruel captions under each image. What were Andrew’s options? And here’s the kick in the teeth – even after the police were notified, the website stayed up for over 7 months! What’s Andrew or other victims of cyberbullying to do?

·         Tommy sends Marcia an anonymous email:
  
“ur fat, stupid and ugly. everybody hates u.”

·         Keirsten PhotoShops® an almost-naked picture with Kate’s face and posts it on MySpace®.
  
”what a skanky b**ch!”

·         Maria sends Mike repeated emails:
  
“ur hot and I want to go to the prom with u”
                
and then she cc’s all her girlfriends and says,
  
“it’s a joke. he’s a creep.”

·         Robert sends a text message to Jose’s cell phone:
  
“if u go out with Jessica I will beat ur a** in front of ur friends.”

·         LaShonda anonymously posts a note in a popular after-school study group chat:
  
“Bridget is the biggest, easiest s**t in the whole school.”

   Teachers, parents, and students are all too familiar with the challenges associated with bullying at school.  But what about bullying that happens away from school grounds – in the digital world?  Cyberbullying, where adolescents use technology to harm their peers, has become increasingly common in recent years.

   Our research in schools shows that cyberbullying is a pervasive problem affecting as many as one-third of middle and high school students.  Its consequences reach into the real world as well, and have been linked to school and family problems, depression, delinquency, and suicidal thoughts.  As one victim told us: “It makes me hurt both physically and mentally. It scares me and takes away all my confidence. It makes me feel sick and worthless.”

   Many adults still don’t know about cyberbullying, or dismiss it as something that can be easily ignored.  Unfortunately, it is not that simple.  Cyberbullying can affect youth in ways that traditionally bullying does not. This is tough stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   First, victims often do not know who the bully is or why they are being targeted.  The cyberbully can cloak his or her identity behind a computer or cell phone using anonymous email addresses or pseudonymous screen names. 

   Second, the hurtful actions of a cyberbully are viral; that is, the whole school can be involved in a cyber-attack on a victim, or at least find out about the incident with a few keystrokes or clicks of the mouse.  The perception, then, is that absolutely everyone knows about it.  This can make life unbearable for the victim.


Findings from a recent study of middle-school students

  • 10% of students indicated they had been cyberbullied in the last thirty days while 17% of students experienced cyberbullying over their lifetime

  • 8% admitted to cyberbullying others over the last 30 days, and 18% had done so over the course of their lifetime

  • 27% of victims say they were cyberbullied by someone from their school

  •  41% of cyberbullying victims told their parents about the experience

  • 20% of students said that threats made online are carried out at school

   Thankfully, there are many resources available for teachers and parents who desire to address cyberbullying. The following are some topics (to be distributed freely) that are available on www.cyberbullying.us:

  • Cyberbullying fact sheets covering different facets of the problem
  • Summaries of recent research
  • Commonly-used chat abbreviations and acronyms
  • Warning signs that someone may be experiencing cyberbullying as a victim or bully
  • Information about collecting and preserving evidence of cyberbullying
  • Activities for parents and teachers to begin a dialog with children about cyberbullying

     

Despite the challenges, we urge all adults to take a proactive role in dealing with cyberbullying and other online misbehaviors of adolescents.  Monitor your child’s online activities.  Talk to teenagers about what they are doing on the Internet and teach them how to use technology responsibly.  Communicate to youth that all forms of bullying are wrong, and intervene when you see or hear about instances of peer conflict.  Parents, teachers, and other community members must work together to combat this insidious adolescent problem to ensure that it does not escalate in frequency and seriousness.

cyber bullying online bullying harassment aggression safe violence


 
Authors: Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja are authors of Bullying beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying which is available from Corwin Press.  More information about the book can be found at www.cyberbullyingbook.com . Go to www.cyberbullying.us for more practical advice on how to identify and fight cyberbullying.

 

 

 

  © Copyright 2008. Used by written permission.
  From the authors, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja

 

  

What can adults do to prevent and address cyber bullying?

   Adults seldom are present in the online environments frequented by children and youth. Therefore, it is extremely important that adults pay close attention to the cyber bullying and the activities of children and youth when using these new technologies.

Suggestions for parents*

Tips to help prevent cyber bullying:

  • Keep your home computer(s) in easily viewable places , such as a family room or kitchen.
  • Talk regularly with your child about on-line activities he or she is involved in.
    • Talk specifically about cyber bullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyber bullying, cyberstalking, or other illegal or troublesome on-line behavior. 
    • Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is aware of others who may be the victims of such behavior.
    • Explain that cyber bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior.  Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Although adults must respect the privacy of children and youth, concerns for your child’s safety may sometimes override these privacy concerns.  Tell your child that you may review his or her on-line communications if you think there is reason for concern.
  • Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or tracking programs, but don’t rely solely on these tools.



Tips for dealing with cyber bullying that your child has experienced:

   Because cyber bullying can range from rude comments to lies, impersonations, and threats, your responses may depend on the nature and severity of the cyber bullying.  Here are some actions that you may want to take after-the-fact.

  • Strongly encourage your child not to respond to the cyber bullying.
  • Do not erase the messages or pictures. Save these as evidence.
  • Try to identify the individual doing the cyber bullying. Even if the cyberbully is anonymous (e.g., is using a fake name or someone else’s identity) there may be a way to track them through your Internet Service Provider. If the cyber bullying is criminal (or if you suspect that it may be), contact the police and ask them to do the tracking.
  • Sending inappropriate language may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of e-mail services, Internet Service Providers, web sites, and cell phone companies. Consider contacting these providers and filing a complaint.
  • If the cyber bullying is coming through e-mail or a cell phone, it may be possible to block future contact from the cyberbully. Of course, the cyberbully may assume a different identity and continue the bullying.
  • Contact your school. If the cyber bullying is occurring through your school district’s Internet system, school administrators have an obligation to intervene. Even if the cyber bullying is occurring off campus, make your school administrators aware of the problem. They may be able to help you resolve the cyber bullying or be watchful for face-to-face bullying.
  • Consider contacting the cyberbully’s parents. These parents may be very concerned to learn that their child has been cyber bullying others, and they may effectively put a stop to the bullying.  On the other hand, these parents may react very badly to your contacting them. So, proceed cautiously. If you decide to contact a cyberbully’s parents, communicate with them in writing — not face-to-face. Present proof of the cyber bullying (e.g., copies of an e-mail message) and ask them to make sure the cyber bullying stops.
  • Consider contacting an attorney in cases of serious cyber bullying. In some circumstances, civil law permits victims to sue a bully or his or her parents in order to recover damages.
  • Contact the police if cyber bullying involves acts such as:
    • Threats of violence
    • Extortion
    • Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
    • Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
    • Child pornography

   If you are uncertain if cyber bullying violates your jurisdiction’s criminal laws, contact your local police, who will advise you.


Suggestions for educators

  • Educate your students, teachers, and other staff members about cyber bullying, its dangers, and what to do if someone is cyberbullied.
  • Be sure that your school’s anti-bullying rules and policies address cyber bullying.
  • Closely monitor students’ use of computers at school.
  • Use filtering and tracking software on all computers, but don’t rely solely on this software to screen out cyber bullying and other problematic on-line behavior.
  • Investigate reports of cyber bullying immediately. If cyber bullying occurs through the school district’s Internet system, you are obligated to take action. If the cyber bullying occurs off-campus, consider what actions you might take to help address the bullying:
    • Notify parents of victims and parents of cyberbullies of known or suspected cyber bullying.
    • Notify the police if the known or suspected cyber bullying involves a threat.
    • Closely monitor the behavior of the affected students at school for possible bullying.
    • Talk with all students about the harms caused by cyber bullying. Remember — cyber bullying that occurs off-campus can travel like wildfire among your students and can affect how they behave and relate to each other at school.
    • Investigate to see if the victim(s) of cyber bullying could use some support from a school counselor or school-based mental health professional.
  • Contact the police immediately if known or suspected cyber bullying involves acts such as:
    • Threats of violence
    • Extortion
    • Obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages
    • Harassment, stalking, or hate crimes
    • Child pornography


-- Open source information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA):

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