Cyber bullying is when a child, adolescent or young adult bullies, harasses or repeatedly threatens one of their peers electronically through email, instant messenges, blogging, text messages and Web Sites dedicated to humiliating another child. With evolving technology, cell phones and computers give cyber bullies 24-hour access to their victim. More than 40 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds said that they had been cyber bullied at some point,* and alarming studies reveal that cyber bullying can start as young as the fourth grade. The slanderous and threatening bullying can lead to serious emotional consequences, including depression and suicide. Cyber bullying is considered harassment, however; parents, their children and the school system struggle with how to stop it. Paoli Roman, 17 and Dennisse Rorie, 17, peer educators in Children's Center for Young Women's Health share their personal experience and knowledge about cyber bullying.
Who is the typical cyber bully?
Roman: It could be anyone, it could be a person from your school, it could be a co-worker, or even a random stranger that doesn't like something about your blog or your profile. Cyber bullies like to control the person they are bullying; they look for people with low self-esteem and or those who are weak or different.
Rorie: They are usually the same as bullies in school; they alienate and manipulate people. Cyber bullies can be people known for putting people down or they could be a quiet kid in class who gets bullied in school so he bullies people online to get his frustration out. It could also be a group of people attacking one person. Bullies think because it's on the Internet and not at school, adults won't see the hurtful or threatening messages or Websites and they can get away with it. Sometimes the person being bullied might not even know who made the Web site or sent the messages.
How are cyber bullying and regular bullying similar? Different?
Rorie: They are similar because they are equally as harmful. Cyber bullying is still an attack on someone and chances are if someone is being cyber bullied, they are being bullied at school too. Just like regular bullying, other people usually jump on the bandwagon and it becomes a lot of people against one. The bully isn't face to face with the person they are targeting so they are even more encouraged to escalate their personal attacks than they would be in person.
Roman: Blogging has made cyber bullying worse because when someone else writes a lie or something mean about another person, the person targeted can't erase it, and they don't always have the option to defend themselves through a commenting section.
Rorie: For example Wikipedia can be changed or altered at the click of a button. But, Facebook or Myspace information can instantly be sent to many different people. When cyber bullying happens it can happen incredibly quickly.
Have either of you ever been cyber bullied?
Rorie: I was the victim of name calling in a chat room by someone that I shared mutual friends with. The most frustrating part was that the person obviously had a problem with me and they weren't addressing me face to face. I was able to type back, but that's not going to reach the person or solve the problem the same way it would if he or she was standing in front of me.
What affect does cyber bullying have on the person targeted?
Rorie: The bully can be spreading information on the Internet for anyone to see and that can affect someone's social life, especially how other kids at school view them. It can also affect the person academically because their lack of confidence will prevent them from contributing and asking questions in class.
Roman: It can result in low self esteem and even lead to depression. When a person withdraws from their peers, they may start to do the same with their family and become a loner.
Do kids who are cyber bullied seek help?
Roman: In my experience, not usually, because they are afraid of the consequences that might bring, like getting their Internet privileges taken away by their parents or an adult who thinks that is the only way to make the bullying stop. The person being bullied might also fear they will make the bullying worse.
Rorie: They might not say something because they are scared or intimidated, and because nobody wants an adult or teacher to force people to be friends with them.
What can young people do to prevent cyber bullying?
Roman: If you are being bullied in school or on the Internet, speak up, don't stay quiet and be humiliated. You have to talk to your parents, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a friend, or talk to us at the Center for Young Women's Health. Just get as much help and advice as possible.
Rorie: For the kids who may not be directly affected, don't jump in and support cyber bullies, even if your friends are doing it. It won't end well and it can really negatively affect people.
What can parents do?
Rorie: Chances are, their child isn't going to come out and admit they are being cyber bullied, so parents should ask questions about what their child is doing online, without being preachy and over-stepping their boundaries. If the bully is from school, the parent will probably want to go to the school and address the problem. Another option is to have your Internet service provider block someone who is harassing you.
Roman: Parents should make themselves available to their children. If they notice something suspicious about the child, like symptoms of depression or loneliness, they should confront and help their child.
What should kids who are being cyber bullied keep in mind?
Rorie: They should remember that it is not their fault and there is nothing wrong with being different and original. Cyber bullies are wrong and malicious; they are unsure of themselves and that's why they are attacking others.
To learn more about cyber bullying and how to stop it check out www.youngwomenshealth.org/links.html#safety.