Information on Cyberbullying

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a new form of harassment, emotional abuse, intimidation and threats that emerged with the invention of the Internet. It is the use of instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms, cell phones, websites or pagers to defame the character of someone or to intimidate, threaten or harass. Cyberbullying is often a tool used by students who hide behind technology by using a username to make the life of a fellow student miserable. The hidden identity of the bully makes it very difficult to trace the person who is the bully, which can lead to a higher degree of aggression than those who bully on schoolyards or in local parks. A cyberbully is anyone who attempts to gain power over others by use of the Internet.

Acts of Cyberbullying

Threats, gay bashing, ethnic and racial slurs, provocative comments or photographs, e-mail flooding or infecting someone's computer with a virus are all acts of cyberbullying. These acts, whether committed by someone known to the victim or a stranger, constitute cyberbullying.

Who is a Cyberbully?

A cyberbully is someone who attempts to gain power or control over someone else by using the technology of the Internet. Cyberbullies are often, but not always, victims of bullying in real life. When a cyberbully logs onto the Internet, they often feel that they don't have to account for their actions. Some cyberbullies allow their alter-ego to take over and therefore feel as if they have a secret identity while online.

Is your Child a Cyberbully?

There are ways for a parent to discover if their child is a cyberbully. However, to do so, parents must be aware of their child's online activity. The following tips will help you determine whether the student in your home is a cyberbully.

Teases, threatens or frightens someone online.

Keeps their identity a secret.

Uses someone else's username to sign into a chat room or to gather information on a person.

Impersonates someone online.

Sends e-mail, instant messages or cards from an account that doesn't belong to them.

Posts threatening or provocative messages or photos on a website.

Uses information to threaten, tease, humiliate or harass someone online.

Posts information online, either true or false, about a person without his/her permission.

Floods someone's e-mail inbox with messages.

Sends insults, threats, scary or rude comments to someone online.

Uses profanity and inappropriate language online.

Signs another person up for anything online without that person's permission.

Uses another person's password without their permission.

Hacks into someone's computer.

Sends a virus or Trojan horse to someone deliberately.

Posts lies about someone online.

Votes on a bashing poll.

Posts mean, rude or inappropriate comments about someone online or in a guestbook.

Handling a Cyberbully

If your student is a victim of cyberbullying, there are a number of ways to handle the situation in a positive manner.

Block the sender.

Keep a record of all cyberbullying incidents, complete with the date and time they were posted or sent.

Never accept instant messages from an unknown sender.

Do not open e-mail from an unknown sender.

Choose a username that will not disclose gender.

Run and online search of your child's name once every month.

Never respond to cyberbullying. Cyberbullies love the power they have over their victims. Silence will usually cause them to move on.

A victim of cyberbullying should tell their parents and/or their teachers. If they know who the cyberbully is, they should divulge that information as well.

Never confront a cyberbully either online or offline.

Is Cyberbullying Serious?

As a parent, you should look at incidents of cyberbullying with the same seriousness as you would an incident of schoolyard bullying. Children can become extremely depressed and even suicidal when they are maliciously attacked online.

Cyberbullying should always be reported to the bully's Internet Service Provider, or if attacks occur on a website, report the URL to the domain's host. If the identity of the cyberbully is known, report the incidents to your child's school as well as to the police. By acting immediately, parents can stop the cyberbullying, which may literally save the victim's life.

Prevention

Instruct your child in the following online protocol:

Never give out your username or password. Even your friends may use this information against you.

Never give out personal information of any kind to persons online.

Never respond to online threats. Print out any threatening, intimidating or harassing messages and give a copy to parents and school administrators. Cyberbullying can take place anywhere you use a computer.

Never participate in cyberbullying. What you may see as harmless fun can hurt others. It can also come back to you by making you the victim.

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