Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cyberbullying - Part One of Two

Last week I focused my blog on bullying and your child. This week I wanted to take more time to focus on the increasing problem of cyberbullying. Some of the differences between cyberbullying and traditional bullying are that cyberbullying can occur 24 hours a day, even in the victim's home, which with traditional bullying is typically a source of refuge from bullies. Additionally, because cyberbullying can be anonymous, it can be hard to track. One of the benefits of electronics is that they are quick and easy to use - which also helps to spread the cyberbullying so fast. The definition of cyberbulling is the willful and repeated harm/attempt to harm, threaten, harass, or embarrass one child, by another child/group of children through the use of electronics (cell phone, Internet/computer, etc). Because of this definition, the only limitations cyberbullying has, are the child's creativity, and the type and access to electronic devices. With cyberbullying both the bully and the victim must be minors, otherwise it is considered cyberstalking or cyberharassment. Here are some ways in which children are engaging in cyberbullying:

1. Developing websites with the express purpose of bullying, or posting pictures or personal information of the victim. If you watch the television show Two and a Half Men, aside from the fact it happened to an adult, there was an episode in which this occurred to Charlie, via an ex-interest.
2.Through the use of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, where they are free to upload pictures, and make posts. Another thing that bullies are doing is utilizing these networks to have votes regarding 'who is the biggest slut,' 'who is the dumbest person,' and you can imagine some of the other categories.
3. By using their phones and sending either harassing or threatening text messages. Groups can also get together and focus on one victim and send mass amounts of text messages, which have the potential of causing more trouble for the victim as they might get charged for the messages and then have to deal with irate parents due to a large phone bill. Another way in which kids bully through their phone is by sending pictures of the victim. Sometimes the pictures are embarrassing, others are degrading, and some are pictures of the victim nude (sometimes taken in locker rooms or bathrooms), which are considered child pornography.
4. Through the use of their computers, bullies can bully by using instant messaging; tricking others into believing the bully is the victim and spreading lies/rumors about the victim; hacking victim's computers; sending viruses; and signing the victim up for mass email lists.
5. Another new way in which cyberbullying is occurring is through gaming. Things such as online gaming, whether it be through the computer, or online game consoles such as XBox Live.

Cyberbullying tends to have the same types of effects on its victims as does traditional bullying. The victims might make efforts to avoid school, or may display changes in mood after being online. Children may isolate themselves, have increased feelings of anxiety or depression, some may even attempt suicide. No matter how you look at it, cyberbullying is an ever growing problem among our children.

In next week's blog, I will address some of the reasons why kids engage in cyberbullying, some statistics, and things both parents and children can do in order to prevent cyberbullying and keep themselves safe.

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