CYBERBULLYING

April 28, 2008
By
y parents always have always cautioned me against the evils of the Internet. I always listened to what they had to say, but how was I to respond? The Internet is a necessity for just about everybody that has access to it, especially for us teens because we are Internet natives. So when my parents cautioned me, I listened and then went back to what I was doing on my computer. I knew all the obvious stuff (sites not to go to, not to talk to strangers), but sometimes the Internet’s evils are less clearly labeled.

What I am referring to in particular are sites and programs that allow social interaction. These sites (Facebook, Myspace, AIM, to name a few) can appear to be harmless ways to talk to your friends, but they are more and more frequently being used for ill intentions. While most of us know how to use common sense when encountering online predators, cyberbullying is a fairly recent phenomenon that most teens are unsure about how to handle. Maybe it has happened to you, you have seen it done to others, or you have done it yourself, but most teens using these sites have encountered cyberbullying before.

Cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text” (Patchin & Hinduja, 2006). The term is used specifically for interactions between minors, for if an adult is bullying a minor the term is cyber-harassment. Often the victim and bully can exchange roles, if for example they take turns insulting or threatening each other.

Schools often try and step in when they become notified of cyberbullying incidents, and in doing so are sued for exceeding their authority and violating the student’s free speech right. It is also common for schools to loose these lawsuits. Schools are capable of adding clauses to their acceptable use policy that allow them to intervene in off-campus affairs when the well-being of their students is being threatened, yet most have not.

One of the most common mistakes people make when talking about or dealing with cyberbullying is to underestimate the effect it can have on people. Already children have inflicted real physical pain on each other, and even committed suicide after being involved in some sort of cyberbullying interaction. Cyberbullying causes much the same effect as regular bullying, and the two should be treated equally.

So what can we do to help prevent cyberbullying from flourishing? The first step is to recognize it. On social networking sites what is said between people can be clearly seen, and as a third party you can speak to the people involved in effort to put an end to it. If you are being bullied, talk to the person bullying you and try to get them to stop without egging them on, and if your attempts are futile, talk to a friend or adult. As for the bully, do not think through your typing, think, and then type. Whatever you say will be recorded forever (and yes, I do mean forever) in the memory of the site. Before you say something you’re going to regret, consider the consequences.





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