What is Cyber Bullying? Defining and Addressing the Problem

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What is cyber bullying? Cyber bullying is a dangerous form of bullying that occurs when a child is tormented by another child through technical means, most commonly the Internet. It usually involves more than one instance of bullying and generally happens repeatedly, usually becoming more and more serious. One reason it is so dangerous is that without police involvement it is often difficult, if not impossible, to catch the cyber bully. Even if the bully is identified that person can usually change identities and continue the harassment.

Who Does it? Any minor can be a cyber bully. Unlike traditional bullies, cyber bullies are more often girls than boys. Of course, boys also bully online. Some students who would never bully openly sometimes choose cyber bullying due to its anonymity.

Where does it happen? Cyber bullying happens while students are at home, as well as at school. It happens most often through email, instant messaging, and chatrooms. Sometimes a cyber bully goes so far as to set up a fake website about their victim.

How do I stop it? You can encourage students to stop cyber bullying by telling them never to respond to it. Responding will only encourage the behavior to continue. They should not reply to emails, instant messages, or chatroom discussions. Encourage students who are being harassed online to talk to a trusted adult about it and get help. (See the Stop Bullying Now website for more information on how to stop cyber bullying.)

Everything related to the cyber bullying should be saved. This is necessary in the instance that the police become involved. Victims can also forward the messages to their Internet Service Provider. Most ISPs have regulations that prevent users from harassing others online.

Tell your students to stand up for themselves and each other. If they know someone who is participating in online bullying, they should tell that person to stop. Kids generally respond rather quickly to criticism from their peers.

If the cyber bullying does not stop after a period of time or if there is ever a direct threat, the police should be contacted. Once this happens, and an investigation takes place, it can sometimes be relatively easy to pinpoint the bully.

What should schools do? Schools should make sure their computer Acceptable Use Policy and Student Code of Conduct specifically bans online bullying. They should also make sure that teachers as well as parents and students are educated about the seriousness of online bullying. Of course, if anti-bullying curriculum is not already on place, it should be added, and cyber bullying should be addressed in it.

By working together to address the problem, parents, teachers, and students can put an end to cyber bullying.