1. People & Relationships

What is Cyberbullying?

Bullying Comes Home

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Bullying is not new but thanks to the Internet teens are now being bullied at home. Online harassment, more often called cyberbullying, is a serious problem. When bullying comes home via the Internet it can leave victims feeling helpless and overwhelmed.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any harassment that occurs via the Internet. Vicious forum posts, name calling in chat rooms, posting fake profiles on web sites, and mean or cruel email messages are all ways of cyberbullying.

Examples of Cyberbullying

A student is bombarded by anonymous threatening and taunting emails at home, even though there is no direct harassment at school. The victim has no idea who is sending the messages and starts to feel like everybody is against them. That student is being cyberbullied.

A school bulletin board is spammed with name-calling posts that spread vicious rumors about a specific student. The rumors aren’t true but kids at school see the posts and believe them. The student is then ostracized by peers. This student is the victim of cyberbullying.

A nasty fake profile is posted at a social networking site using a student’s real name, photo, and contact information. That student starts getting weird email messages from strangers who think the profile is real. Some of the messages are crude. Some of the messages are mean. This is another example of cyberbullying.

These are just a few examples of cyberbullying. If you are taking part in things like this it is not harmless fun. You are being a cyberbully. If you are the victim of this type of treatment you are being cyberbullied and there are things you can do to stop the harassment.

Why Do People Cyberbully?

Bullying has been around forever but cyberbullying is different because it lets a bully remain anonymous. It is easier to bully in cyberspace than it is to bully face to face. With cyberbullying a bully can pick on people with much less risk of being caught.

Bullies are natural instigators and in cyberspace bullies can enlist the participation of other students who may be unwilling to bully in the real world. Kids who stand around doing nothing in a real life bullying incident often become active participants in online harassment.

The detachment afforded by cyberspace makes bullies out of people who would never become involved in a real life incident. The Internet makes bullying more convenient and since the victim’s reaction remains unseen people who wouldn’t normally bully don’t take it as seriously.

What Can Be Done About Cyberbullying?

There are many things that can be done to combat cyberbullying. The most important thing a victim of cyberbullying can do is not respond to the bully. Do not play in to the bully's games. Do not answer emails, do not respond to posts, do not engage in a chat room exchange, and do not copy what the bully is doing. Ignore the bullying and get help from parents and teachers.

While ignoring the bully be sure to save the evidence so that school officials, Internet providers and even the police can properly deal with the bully. Cyberbullying may give bullies anonymity but it always leaves evidence.

Can Cyberbullying Be Stopped?

Schools take all types of bullying seriously. As soon as the cyberbullying starts go to school officials for help. Cyberbullying is often an extension or escalation of bullying that is already happening at school. Parents should also be told what is happening.

The police are unlikely to become involved if the bullying is limited to a few isolated incidents or a couple of mean emails or instant messages. However, if you get even one communication that includes a threat of bodily harm or a death threat the police should be alerted. Be aware that urging suicide is considered a death threat and the police will treat it accordingly.

When Should the Police Become Involved?

Repeated or excessive harassment via email, forums or chat rooms is harassment and should involve the police. Threats of violence should also be reported to the police. Try to save all messages as evidence. The police will know what to do from there.

You do not need to put up with cyberbullying. You can get help. Cyberbullying leaves a clear trail of evidence and this can work to the advantage of the victim. Cyberbullies are just bullies with a new weapon in their arsenal of harassment; treat them like you would any bully and they lose their power.

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