Cyber bullying is using things like the Internet or a cell phone to embarrass, humiliate and generally make another person - or a group of people - look bad to others or feel bad about themselves.Bully-image.jpg

Cyber bullying can happen directly, like when someone sends a negative message right to another person. Or it can happen indirectly, like when someone sends a harmful message or photograph about someone else to others. Most of the time, cyber bullies use cell phone text and photo messages, websites, web logs (blogs), chat rooms, social networking sites, instant messaging services and e-mail to do their dirty work.

Education can help considerably in preventing and dealing with the consequences of cyberbullying. The first place to begin an education campaign is with the kids and teens themselves. We need to address ways they can become inadvertent cyberbullies, how to be accountable for their actions and not to stand by and allow bullying (in any form) to be acceptable. We need to teach them not to ignore the pain of others.

From a 15 year-old girl from New York:
"I think most people who bully online just do it to act tough but since they're not saying it to someone's face makes them seem more of a wimp."

From a 14 year-old girl from New Jersey:
"Being bullied besides over the internet is worse. It's torment and hurts. They say "sticks and stones may break my bones,but words will never hurt me." That quote is a lie and I don't believe in it. Sticks and stones may cause nasty cuts and scars, but those cuts and scars will heal. Insultive words hurt and sometimes take forever to heal."

cyberbully.jpgFrom a 14 year-old girl from Illinois:
"I still cry when I think of what she said. After awhile you start believing all of the things people tell you that aren't true. When I look in the mirror I wonder if I'm fat (I'm not) after what my ex-friend said."

From a 15 year-old girl from New York:
"Some girl in my class emailed me calling me a freak and a loser. It made me feel really depressed because I had other things going on too at that time. I told my dad and he called her up and spoke to her. He told her that i didn't read it yet, that it would crush me and that she should think before she does anything like that again. Well, she never did it again so i guess it worked."

From a 14 year-old girl from Canada:
"I was online in a chat room and this guy was sexually harassing me by saying stuff to me and wouldn't leave me alone. i had to exit the chat room and my email."

From a 12 year-old girl from Michigan:
"The internet is not a place to harass others or hurt them. The internet is supposed to be a place that is safe and fun for people, not a place to be criticized or harassed. I used to be bullied at school frequently and I was sometimes hurt so badly that I had to fake sick at school just so I could go home. One girl actually told me she would come and murder my parents and kill me personally. She made me cry so hard that I threw up. So, I know firsthand what its like to be bullied beyond your imagination."

From a 15 year-old girl from the United Kingdom:

"One of my friends started hassling me on msn messenger; she was sending me nasty messages and text messages and this carried on at school. I told my parents, my friends, and a teacher. she was spoken to a few times but it still carries on a bit now but not as bad because i have blocked her online. This really affected me at home and at school; I couldn't concentrate on school work and I was always upset and down now I just ignore it and get on with it, I have plenty more friends and i don't need her anymore. Maybe one day she will give up and grow up."

From a 13 year-old girl from Virginia:
"When I still had AOL, this one guy asked me how I looked and wanted to know about my body and stuff and I just flat out told him leave me alone!!! I would have reported him but AOL wouldn't even let me block him without parental permission so he bullied me and stuff online when ever I got on. I felt horrible. That was over four years ago and I still remember every thing he said to me. Every exact word. I felt awful. I hated it. I wanted to tell my parents but I was afraid that they would never let me chat again and I know that's how a lot of other kids feel. It is a bad feeling knowing that people that don't know you are judging you."

From a 15 year-old boy from undisclosed location:
Well the only reason I bullied is because the same person I was doing it to, did it to me like a week before. It wasn't the right thing to do but at the time it felt like I was getting revenge. Cyberbully2.jpg

From a 15 year-old girl from Canada:
Sometimes I get insulted for no reason because i said my mind so then I get into a fight and feel good when i convince the person/change their perspective/prove I'm right because it shows I have an impact on people. Once I got into a huge fight because these girls were bullying one of my friends and I tried to tell them to stop resulting in them insulting me very badly but me getting insulting them all the same. They made threats to beat her up, what else could I do? They printed out what I said but not what they said and showed the principal. I got in a lot of trouble but talked my way out of it telling the TRUTH (something THEY didn’t do) and got let off with a warning.

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Over 1/3rd (33.4%) of the youth studied had been victimized through cyberbullying.
Among that group, the most frequent types of cyberbullying victimization include being ignored (43.2%) and disrespected (39.8%).
Importantly, almost five percent were scared for their own safety.

Let's say you're being bullied at school. Find a teacher or a staff member you trust, and let them know what you need them to do (and not do) to put a stop to the bullying. It's also a good idea to try and tell the people that you live with. Being bullied can cause changes in your behavior that will worry them. If they know what's going on, they'll be more understanding.

Safe Ways To Tell
  • Have a face-to-face conversation. If you're telling a teacher, for example, ask if you can talk after school. If you're worried the person bullying you will find out, just pretend that you need help with some work.
  • Write down what's happening and give your notes to someone you trust.

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What ages does it usually affect?
Cyberbullying typically starts at about 9 years of age and usually ends around 14. After 14 it usually becomes sexual harassment. Many cases of cyberbullying occur right after a child receives their first IM account when they often try to see what they can get away with. (These kids usually stop when they understand the consequences of their actions.)

How prevalent is it?
Very. 90% of the middle school students we polled admitted to having had their feelings hurt online. 65% of the students we polled between 8 and 14 have been involved directly or indirectly in a cyberbullying incident as either the cyberbullying, the victim or a close friend of one or the other. 50% have heard of or seen a website bashing another student in their school, and 75% have visited a bashing website. 40% have either had their password stolen and changed by a bully (locking them out of their own account) or had communications sent to others posing as them. Many studies that ask kids if they have been cyberbullied fall short of measuring the real problem.The kids often do not consider these actions to be cyberbullying. Studies must ask each of the typical cyberbullying methods to be able to determine how many kids have been victimized or been cyberbullies themselves. Many kids go back and forth (often in the course of the same cyberbullying incident) between being a victim and a cyberbully. And some kids don’t mean to be a cyberbully at all, but because they haven’t been careful with what they say or how they say it or whom they say it to, is considered a cyberbully by the recipient.external image 06cyberbully250.jpg

How does it work? There are two kinds of cyberbullying, direct attacks (messages sent to your kids directly) and cyberbullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge). Because cyberbullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it is much more dangerous. This type of cyberbulling is explained on the page Cyberbullying by proxy.

Direct AttacksInstant Messaging/Text Messaging Harassment
1. Kids may send hateful or threatening messages to other kids, without realizing that while not said in real life, unkind or threatening messages are hurtful and very serious.
2. Warning wars - Many Internet Service Providers offer a way of “telling on” a user who is saying inappropriate things. Kids often engage in “warning wars” which can lead to kicking someone offline for a period of time. While this should be a security tool, kids sometimes use the Warn button as a game or prank.
3. A kid/teen may create a screenname that is very similar to another kid’s name. The name may have an additional “i” or one less “e”. They may use this name to say inappropriate things to other users while posing as the other person.
4. Text wars or text attacks are when kids gang up on the victim, sending thousands of text-messages to the victims cell phone or other mobile device. The victim is then faced with a huge cell phone bill and angry parents.
5. Kids send death threats using IM and text-messaging as well as photos/videos (see below).

Stealing passwords
1. A kid may steal another child’s password and begin to chat with other people, pretending to be the other kid. He/she may say mean things that offend and anger this person’s friends or even strangers. Meanwhile, they won’t know it is not really that person they are talking to.
2. A kid may also use another kid’s password to change his/her profile to include sexual, racist, and inappropriate things that may attract unwanted attention or offend people.
3. A kid often steals the password and locks the victim out of their own account.
4. Once the password is stolen, hackers may use it to hack into the victim’s computer.

Blogs and Social Networks
1. Blogs are online journals. They are posted, often, at sites known as social networks. They are a fun way for kids and teens to messages for all of their friends to see. However, kids sometimes use these blogs to damage other kids’ reputations or invade their privacy. For example, in one case, a boy posted a bunch of blogs about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend, explaining how she destroyed his life, calling her degrading names. Their mutual friends read about this and criticized her. She was embarrassed and hurt all because another kid posted mean, private, and false information about her. Sometimes kids set up a blog or profile page pretending to be their victim and saying things designed to humiliate them.
2. In addition, teens and preteens often copy the victim’s blog or profile page and modify it to humiliate them. They may steal images from their profile or set up a survey or poll for others to vote for the ugliest, fattest, etc. victim. They may steal their passwords or post rude, threatening or embarrassing comments. The number of methods used on social networks ot cyberbully others is limited only by the amount of boredom, emotion and creativity the cyberbully has.external image bully.jpg

Web sites
1. Children used to tease each other in the playground; now they do it on Web sites. Kids sometimes create Web sites that may insult or endanger another child. They create pages specifically designed to insult another kid or group of people.
2. Kids also post other kids’ personal information and pictures, which put those people at a greater risk of being contacted or found.

Sending Pictures through E-mail and Cell Phones
1. There have been cases of teens sending mass e-mails to other users, that include nude or degrading pictures of other teens. Once an e-mail like this is sent, it is passed around to hundreds of other people within hours; there is no way of controlling where it goes.
2. Many of the newer cell phones allow kids to send pictures to each other. The kids receive the pictures directly on their phones, and may send it to everyone in their address books. After viewing the picture at a Web site, some kids have actually posted these often pornographic pictures on Kazaa and other programs for anyone to download.
3. Kids often take a picture of someone in a locker room, bathroom or dressing room and post it online or send it to others on cell phones.

Internet Polling
Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? Who is the biggest slut in the sixth grade? These types of questions run rampant on the Internet polls, all created by yours truly - kids and teens. Such questions are often very offensive to others and are yet another way that kids can “bully” other kids online.

Interactive Gaming
Many kids today are playing interactive games on gaming devices such as X-Box Live and Sony Play Station 2 Network. These gaming devices allow your child to communicate by chat and live Internet phone with anyone they find themselves matched with in a game online. Sometimes the kids verbally abuse the other kids, using threats and lewd language. Sometimes they take it further, by locking them out of games, passing false rumors about them or hacking into their accounts.

Sending Malicious Code
Many kids will send viruses, spyware and hacking programs to their victims. They do this to either destroy their computers or spy on their victim. Trojan Horse programs allow the cyberbully to control their victim’s computer remote control, and can be used to erase the hard drive of the victim.

Sending Porn and Other Junk E-Mail and IMs
Often cyberbullies will sign their victims up for e-mailing and IM marketing lists, lots of them, especially to porn sites. When the victim receives thousands of e-mails from pornographers their parents usually get involved, either blaming them (assuming they have been visiting porn sites) or making them change their e-mail or IM address.

Posing as the victim, the cyberbully can do considerable damage. They may post a provocative message in a hate group’s chatroom posing as the victim, inviting an attack against the victim, often giving the name, address and telephone number of the victim to make the hate group’s job easier. They often also send a message to someone posing as the victim, saying hateful or threatening things while masquerading as the victim. They may also alter a message really from the victim, making it appear that they have said nasty things or shared secrets with others.
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