Children have likely always bullied each other, but when a new medium was introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it became clear that the Internet had become an entirely new playground where kids can get away with cyberbullying each other without supervision.
Out of that evolved a new form of harassment that both parents and teachers have had a hard time dealing with: cyberbullying. This technological evolution has created a many-headed monster that both victims and lawmakers have had difficulty slaying.
Some estimate that as much as a third of all online teens ages 12 to 17 have been cyberbullied. That’s an unfortunate statistic considering that many parents, teachers, and administrators sometimes have trouble keeping up with what’s happening online, even today.
What Is Cyberbullying?
From “flaming” on social media to constant phone messaging to identity theft to editing and posting pictures, cyber bullying comes in many forms. Basically, cyberbullying can be defined as this: traditional bullying tactics using a new medium (the Internet and new technologies) to victimize a certain person or group.
Many different types and forms of this online behavior have evolved in recent years. The aforementioned flaming, otherwise known as “trolling,” is a behavior that’s meant to prompt a bad reaction.
This happens all over the Internet, but for a child, this might manifest as hostile messages on social media, rude comments, or texts. On the other hand, what’s been called “happy-slapping” is when a victim is physically attacked in a real-life setting, and then a video of the attack is posted online for the public to view.
Some people have been known to use a program to alter an original picture to embarrass or incriminate a victim, which is called photoshopping after the popular program Adobe Photoshop. Also, there’s classic rumor-spreading, threatening, and harassing behaviors that just happen to happen online or through messaging services.
Constant messaging has become a recent issue, in which the victim is harassed via messages sent too frequently, sometimes even every five minutes. This tends to happen between couples and close friends but is often a sign of a toxic relationship.
Why do so many teens and children engage in these types of behaviors? There seems to be a very thin line for adults between their online selves and their in-person selves, but for young people, that line seems to have become a thick brick wall.
With the Internet, there’s often the feeling of anonymity that comes along with the space on forums and in comments. When there’s not anonymity, there are parts of the Web that are not 100 percent policed by parents and teachers all of the time, such as social media.
The online space is one that exists 24 hours a day, making people constantly vulnerable, in a sense. Also, it’s gratifying for the harasser because messages can be sent instantly to a wide audience.
There are many behaviors that are bad that happen online that seem to be “allowed” even though they’re not, like pirating or defamation, but it should be made clear to students by their parents and teachers that the rules still apply online.
The problem is that damaging or even defamatory remarks online tend to spread, so immediate action should be taken. Many victims, who are more often than not girls, tend to just delete messages from their social media accounts and not tell their parents or anyone.
However, the emotional damage has often been done by this point, and they’ll still need support, even if the bully or bullies involved don’t lash out at being quieted. Parents need to keep an eye out for warning signs that their child is being bullied without telling them.
Be concerned if they avoid computers, withdraw from social events, avoid conversations about their computer use, or have obvious signs of poor self-esteem. Explain to your child or student that you’re here to help if they’re ever being harassed.
- Stand Up to Cyberbullying (Video)
Types of Attacks
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
What to Do When a Bully Attacks