Cyberbullying is bullying through social networking sites (Facebook), email, instantmessaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or text messages orimages sent to a cell phone or personal digital assistant. Cyberbullying, liketraditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power, aggression, or anegative action that is often repeated.
Cyberbullying has some rather unique characteristics that are different fromtraditional bullying:
AnonymityAs hurtful as the "bully" on the playground may be, he or she can be readily identified and potentially avoided. On the other hand, the child who cyberbullies is often anonymous. The victim is left wondering who the cyberbully is, which can be very stressful.
Accessibility- Most children who use traditional ways of bullying, terrorize their victim at school, on the bus, or walking to or from school. Although bullying can happen anywhere in the community, there is usually a typical period of time during which these children have access to their victims. Children who cyberbully can levy abuse any time of the day or night.
Punitive Fears- Victims of cyberbullying often do not report it because they fear retaliation by their tormentors, and/or fear that their computer or phone privileges will be taken away. Often, adults' responses to cyberbullying are to remove the technology, not realizing they are also removing their child’s perceived life-line to the outside world.
Bystanders- Most traditional bullying episodes occur in the presence of other people who assume the role of bystanders or witnesses. A bystander's role in the cyber world is different in that they may be viewing Facebook walls, receiving and forwarding emails, viewing web pages, forwarding images sent to cell phones, etc. The number of bystanders in the cyber world can reach into the millions.
Lack of Inhibition- The use of computers in the privacy of one's own home, allows children to feel anonymous and can lead children to engage in behaviors that they might not do face-to-face. Ironically, it is their very anonymity that allows some individuals to bully at all.
CommonForms of Cyberbullying
Here are six of the most common forms of cyberbullying.
Harassment- Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages
Denigration- Distributing untrue or derogatoryinformation about another person by posting it on a social networking site or a Web page, sending it to others through email or instant messaging or text message, or posting or sending digitally altered photos of someone
Flaming- Online "fighting" using electronic messages with angry, vulgar language
Impersonation- Breaking into an email or social networking account and using that person's online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others.
Outing and Trickery- Sharing someone's secrets or embarrassing information, or tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information and forwarding it or posting it to others
Cyber Stalking- Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety (depending on the content of the message, it may be illegal)
Whatare the Warning Signs of Cyberbullying?
Thewarning signs of cyberbullying are similar to those for traditional bullyingin terms of emotional effects; however, there are some differences. Forexample, a bruise or torn clothing is not expected as a sign that a child isbeing cyberbullied, but it is also important to keep in mind that somechildren who are cyberbullied may also be experiencing traditional bullying atschool.
Achild may be experiencing cyberbullying if he or she:
appears sad, moody, or anxious
withdraws from or shows a lack of interest in social activities
experiences a drop in grades or decline in academic performance
seems to be overly eager or desperate to go online
appears upset after using the computer or being online
appears upset after viewing a text message on a cell phone
Ifa child shows any of these warning signs, it is important to talk with thechild and investigate his or her online presence to determine whether cyberbullying is occurring and to offer help when needed.