Teen Corner – Cyberbullying

cyber-bullying“It is estimated that there may potentially be tens or even hundreds of thousands of cyber-stalking victims in the United States. A cyber-stalker only needs access to a computer and a modem.” Here are just a few safety and prevention tips for anyone who thinks they are being stalked physically or online.

What is it?

  • Cyberbullying is any cyber-communication or publication posted or sent by a minor online, by instant messenger, e-mail, website, diary site, online profile, interactive game, handheld device, cell phone or other interactive device that is intended to frighten, embarrass, harass or otherwise target another minor.
  • If there aren’t minors on both sides of the communication, it is considered cyber harassment, not cyberbullying.
  • Most kids don’t consider a one-time rude or insulting communication to be cyberbullying. They think it needs to be repeated, or a threat of bodily harm or a public posting designed to hurt, embarrass or otherwise target a child.

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.

How prevalent is it?

  • 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 the cyberbully, 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.
  • 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.
  • Only 15% of parents polled even knew what cyberbullying was.

How does it work? There are two kinds of cyberbullying:

  • Direct attacks (messages sent to your kids directly)
  • Cyberbullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge). These include bashing websites, where kids are encouraged to vote for the ugliest, fattest, etc. victim. Because cyberbullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it is much more dangerous.

How to Prevent Cyberbullying

  • Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
  • Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
  • Block communications with cyberbullies
  • Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult
    Cyberbullies may think they are anonymous, but they can be found. If you are cyberbullied or harassed and need help, save all communications with the cyberbully and talk to a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer, or other trusted adult.

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.

What Else Can I Do to Stay Cyber-safe?

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 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.

(U.S. Department of Justice. August 1999. Cyber-stalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry—A Report from the Attorney General to the Vice President. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, pp. 2, 6.)

 

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