Getting Wired – Cyber BullyingSep 13th, 2009 • Category: Care Share
What is What is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is not a new phenomenon – it has been around forever. Often, parents perceive it to be part of growing up, and it can be viewed as a rite of passage into learning to assert oneself in a peer group situation. The disturbing fact, however, is that bullying is on the increase, and a new predator, the cyber bully, has entered the playground jungle. Cyber bullying is different because it lets a bully remain anonymous. It is easier to bully in cyberspace than face to face. With cyber bullying a bully can pick on people with much less risk of being caught.
Cyber bullying is when a child (preteen or teen) is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child (preteen or teen) or peer group using the arena of technology, for example, the Internet or cellphone. Cyber bullying occurs through e-mail, instant messaging and chat rooms and, in the case of younger children, cellphones are the popular medium. Research shows that cellphones are the most prized possessions of children 11 years and older, and it is these children, who have access to cellphones, who are most at risk of being the victims of cyber bullying.
What are the effects of cyber bullying?
The psychological effects of cyber bullying are as harmful, and in some cases, more harmful than physical bullying. Cyber bullying allows the bully to remain anonymous. It is easier to bully in cyberspace than face to face because with cyber bullying a bully can pick on people with much less risk of being caught. In cyberspace bullies can enlist the participation of other children who may be unwilling to bully in the real world. Children who stand around doing nothing during a real life bullying incident often become active participants in online harassment.
How will I know if my child is being bullied online ?
It is important to be emotionally open to your children and be aware of what they are doing online.
If your child is becoming emotionally withdrawn, depressed and fearful, resists going to school or even shows signs of aggression with family and friends, you should be on the alert. If your child admits to being bullied, the school should be contacted immediately, and the relevant parties called in to address the issue. Some schools in South Africa have a “bully box” and many assert a “No Dissing” policy.
In all cases, the victim must be assured that the bullying is not his or her fault.
Ref: Child Development. 2005 Mar-Apr; 76(2): 435-50
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What to do if you feel like you are being bullied
Cyber bullying can involve any of the following:
- Sending hateful or threatening messages via mobile instant messaging (MIM), mobile chat or even via e-mail;
- A teen impersonating another teen by creating a fake profile on a MIM site or social networking site;
- Harassing another child by sending large numbers of SMS messages to their cell phone;
Taking photographs or video clips of a victim and then circulating these images to every contact in the phonebook;
- Vicious forum posts and name calling in chat rooms.
If you are being cyber bullied , there are things you can do to stop the harassment:
- Assertively ask the bully to stop. Otherwise, don’t respond or argue with the bully. Don’t answer e-mails, instant messages, text messages or other messages from a bully.
- Tell your parents.
- Save proof of cyber bullying. Don’t delete anything. Copy and paste conversations and save e-mails. Save text messages and/or voicemails.
- Make changes – block/ban/ignore the offender. Log out. Change your e-mail address, screen name, cellphone number and other ways the bully could contact you.
- Report cyber bullying to the site, the service, your internet service provider or your cellphone company.
If you are taking part in things like this – it is not harmless fun. You are being a cyber bully.
- Think before you post!
- If you laugh at it, you are a part of it.
TIPS FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS:
You need to encourage your child to come to you, or another trusted adult, if they ever experience cyber bullying. Be as supportive as possible of your child during this time. If you feel that the matter needs to be reported to the police then do so in the interest of ensuring the safety of your child.
Some of the things you can do for your child are:
- To keep a record of cyber bullying messages as evidence if you decide to report the matter to the police or a lawyer.
- To offer to change your child’s cellphone number or delete the account on the relevant mobile instant messaging service or social networking site to stop receiving bullying messages.
- To not become a cyber bully in turn by sending out inflaming messages to another person when they are angry or hurt. There is no limit to how widely such messages can spread, and there are instances where children have been taken to court for defamation.
- To teach children to “Think before they post”, and to not be a part of cyber bullying by passing on hurtful content. Teach children that “If they laugh about it, they are part of it”.
We need to teach our children that silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable. If they don’t allow the cyber bullies to use them to embarrass or torment others, cyber bullying will quickly stop. In the end, our children will be safer online and offline. We will have helped create a generation of good cyber citizens who control technology rather than being controlled by it.
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