Most kids/teenagers today spend a lot of time texting/chatting on a cell phone or instant message (IM) chatting with friends and uploading photos, videos, and music to websites. They may have online “friends” whom they’ve never met in person, with whom they play games and exchange messages. Kids’ lives today exist in a variety of places such as school hallways, part-time jobs, and friends’ houses. Now many kids also have lives on the Internet. And bullying has followed teens online.
Online bullying, called cyberbullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. Cyberbullying is a problem that affects almost half of all American teens. Whether you’ve been a victim of cyberbullying, know someone who has been cyberbullied, or have even cyberbullied yourself, there are steps you and your friends can take to stop cyberbullying and stay cyber-safe.
Being a victim of cyberbullying can be a common and painful experience. Some of the tactics used by cyberbullies are:
- Pretending they are other people online to trick the victim or others about the victim
- Hacking into other kids’ email/IM accounts and send out mean emails from the victims’ account
- Texting mean or lewd messages to other kids phone using the victim’s number as the sender
- Spreading lies and rumors about victims via email/text/IM
- Tricking people into revealing personal information that they will use against them
- Sending or forwarding mean text messages
- Posting pictures of victims without their consent
When teens were asked why they think others cyberbully, 81% said that cyberbullies think it’s funny. Other teens believe that youth who cyberbully don’t think it’s a big deal, don’t think about the consequences, are encouraged by their friends, think everybody does it and/or thinks they won’t get caught.
Contrary to what cyberbullies and others may believe, cyberbullying IS a big deal, and can cause a variety of reactions in kids.
Some kids have reacted in positive ways to try to prevent cyberbullying by
- Blocking communication with the cyberbully
- Deleting messages without reading them
- Talking to a friend or trusted adult about the bullying
- Reporting the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator
Kids can experience a variety of emotions when they are cyberbullied - some report feeling angry, hurt, embarrassed, or scared. These emotions can cause victims to seek revenge on the bully, avoid friends and activities or cyberbully back. Kids may feel especially threatened if they do not know who is cyberbullying them. Although victims and cyberbullies may think the bullies are anonymous, they can be found. If you are being cyberbullied or harassed and need help, save all communication with the cyberbully and talk to a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer, or other adult you trust.
Some quick-thinking and creative kids have come up with some really effective ways of stopping Cyberbullying. You can help by:
- Refusing to pass along gossip/rumors/cyberbullying messages
- Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
- Block communication with cyberbullies
- Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult
You can also help prevent cyberbullying by
- Speaking with other students, as well as teachers and school administrators, to develop rules against cyberbullying
- Raising awareness of the cyberbullying problem in your community by holding an assembly and creating fliers to give to younger kids or parents
- Sharing NCPC’s anti-cyberbullying message with friends
Don’t forget that even though you can’t see a cyberbully or the bully’s victim, cyberbullying causes real problems. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online. Delete cyberbullying. Don’t write it. Don’t forward it.
Remember that the Internet is accessed by millions of people all over the world, not just your friends and family. While many Internet users are friendly, some may want to hurt you. Below are some ways to stay cyber-safe:
- Never post or share your personal information online (this includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or your friends’ personal information.
- Never share your Internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
- Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you only know online.
- Talk to your parents about what you do online.
Who knows why kids do anything? When it comes to cyberbullying, they are often motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. Sometimes they do it for entertainment or because they are bored and have too much time on their hands and too many tech toys available to them. Many do it for laughs or to get a reaction. Some do it by accident, and either send a message to the wrong recipient or didn't think before they did something. The Power-hungry do it to torment others and for their ego. Revenge of the Nerd may start out defending themselves from traditional bullying only to find that they enjoy being the tough guy or gal. Mean girls do it to help bolster or remind people of their own social standing. And some think they are righting wrong and standing up for others.
Because their motives differ, the solutions and responses to each type of cyberbullying incident has to differ too. Unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" when cyberbullying is concerned. Only two of the types of cyberbullies have something in common with the traditional schoolyard bully. Experts who understand schoolyard bullying often misunderstand cyberbullying, thinking it is just another method of bullying. But the motives and the nature of cybercommunications, as well as the demographic and profile of a cyberbully differ from their offline counterpart.
- Keep your password safe! You can tell your parents about it, but not anyone else — not even your best friend!
- Don’t share secrets, photos, or anything online that might be embarrassing if someone found out (like your entire school!).
- Set up email and instant messenger accounts with your parents. Make sure not to put your name, age, address, or phone number in your profile or screen name.
- Don't send messages when you're angry. Wait until you cool off so you don't say something you'll regret. Remember Scruff’s steps for getting along.
- Let bullies know that cyberbullying is not OK. If your friends are cyberbullying, tell them that it’s not funny and that cyberbullying hurts people.
- Be as nice online as you are offline.
The Following Statistics Are Adapted From The Youth Research Compiled At Cyberbullying.Us:
33 percent of youth have been victimized by cyber bullying.
Among this percentage, being ignored and disrespected were the most common forms of cyber bullying.
The primary cyber bullying location where victimizing occurs is in chat rooms (56 percent).
Following chat rooms, 49 percent are victimized via instant message and 28 percent via e-mail.
- 34 percent of youth who are bullied feel frustrated, 30 percent angry and 22 percent feel sad.
- Oddly, because many studies show that females often deal with harder situations by becoming sad, this particular study suggests that females feel much angrier than males about being cyber-bullied.
- 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent did tell an online friend.
- The situation only improved for 19 percent of victims when they did tell someone about the bullying.
- 17 percent admitted to bullying another individual online.
- Of the offenders interviewed most considered it fun or instructive; such as a way to strengthen their victims.
- More than half of study participants feel that cyber bullying is as bad, or worse, as bullying in real life.
- Middle School and High School girls were about twice as likely as boys to display cyber-bullying behaviors in the form of email, text, and chat.
- Middle School and High School girls were twice as likely as boys to report receiving email, text messages or chat room messages that teased, taunted, and ridiculed.
- 62% said that they had been cyber-bullied by another student at school, and 46% had been cyber-bullied by a friend.
- 55% didn’t know who had cyber-bullied them.
- Only 20% cyber-bullying victims tell their parents about the incident. Victims are most likely to tell a friend (42%).
All statistics from the 2006 Harris Interactive Cyberbullying Research Report, commissioned by the National Crime Prevention Council.
Check out the following resources to learn more about preventing cyberbullying:
- www.ncpc.org provides information about stopping cyberbullying before it starts.
- Stop Cyberbullying Before It Starts (PDF) provides useful information for parents.
- Cyberbullying.us provides cyberbullying research, stories, cases, downloads, fact sheets, tips and strategies, news headlines, a blog, and a number of other helpful resources on their comprehensive public service website.
- www.stopcyberbullying.org has a fun quiz to rate your online behavior, information about why some people cyberbully, and how to stop yourself from cyberbullying.
- www.wiredsafety.com provides information about what to do if you are cyberbullied.
- www.stopbullyingnow.com has information about what you can do to stop bullying.