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The New Bullying Landscape This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Over 40 percent of teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online in the past year, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Cyberbullying, also known as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, is a serious and growing problem. Cyberbullying can happen to anyone who uses the Internet, and it can take many forms. Sending cruel messages or threats by e-mail or text, spreading rumors online or through texts, and posting hurtful messages on social networking sites are some of the new ways young people are bullying each other. A cyberbully may also steal someone's account information and post damaging messages pretending to be that person. A more recent form of cyberbullying involves Photoshopping someone's face onto an embarrassing photo to humiliate him or her. Sometimes cyberbullying happens by accident; text messages, IMs, and e-mails make it hard to detect the sender's tone. What was intended as a joke could be misunderstood as a hurtful insult. Whether intentional or not, cyberbullying can be very damaging to the target and can have long-lasting effects for both the victim and the bully.

At the end of the school day, you'd think a person would be safe from bullies. But today bullying follows you home. The Internet is always there, 24/7. Severe cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and in rare cases, even suicide. Unlike a schoolyard taunt, cyberbullying is long lasting. Messages and photos posted on the Internet may resurface later and renew the pain.

Over half of teens who are cyberbullied don't tell. But teens show many signs when being bullied online – for example, secluding themselves from friends and family, appearing emotional after using the computer or phone, or being secretive about their digital life. Cyberbullying is a serious crime with serious consequences.

Be careful what you post online, because it may follow you when you apply to college or a job, even if it's years away. In many schools, those caught bullying online are suspended or kicked off sports teams. There may even be legal repercussions. In my state, cyberbullies can be fined up to $500, imprisoned for as long as six months, or both.

The easiest way to stop cyberbullying is to turn off the computer or delete your social networking account. Because cyberbullying usually takes place outside of school, it is hard for schools to police it. So it's up to you to be smart online: don't give out personal information, don't believe everything you see or read online, don't send a message when you're angry, and if it doesn't look or feel right, it probably isn't. Lastly, try not to let cyberbullies get to you. Don't reply to abusive messages, but don't delete them either. You might need them for evidence if the harassment persists.

If you are a victim of cyberbullying, the most important thing is to tell someone about it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Blotted said...
May 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm
This is mainly true; but in my experience deactivating the account does not always stop it. I was cyber bullied on formspring and when my friends told my school i was told to deactivate my account, so i did. People i knew were sent messages about me, instead of sending them to me they just sent it to my friends. you cant always stop this, sometimes you just got to wait it out.
 
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