Have you ever seen someone in a chat room get called a name, gossiped about or even tormented because they seemed a little different or weird? Did you want to stand up for them but kept silent in fear someone might tease or outcast you? What if you were the victim? How would you feel? What if you are the bully? Did you ever take a moment to think that the words you write or say could hurt someone else? What makes the Internet so fascinating and exciting that you want to be apart of it?
In this vast world of technology we live in today, teens have instant access to many outlets, we only dreamt of back in the 80s and 90s. The Internet has paved the way for text messages, IMs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace. These are just a few of the ways teens can stay connected to each other. Teachers are now using Smart Boards and virtual classrooms to teach their students. Most schools in the USA use the Internet for assigning homework or grades online. Teens can invite their friends to live webcam chats, play virtual games, watch movies or view photos on XBox Live, WII, Play Stations or via websites. There are endless possibilities of instant communication and media that is used in today's society. We cannot isolate ourselves from the Internet; it is the way the world conducts business. The Internet can be a wonderful virtual window in which to view the world, connect with others and express feelings and creativity. But like everything in our lives, along with the positivity, there can be negativity in the arena.
Most teens are not looking for trouble on the Internet; they are looking for social interaction with others, a way to express themselves and feel they are part of something grander. Teens tend to trust each other more than they trust their adult counterparts. Instead of journals and diaries made of paper, teens are now writing on virtual paper called blogs or live journals to express their most private and intimate feelings for anyone to read. Yes, some blogs you can mark as private, but in the hands of a not-so-friendly neighborhood hacker or bully, your private world can become shattered.
During the Halloween season in the US, kids of every age dress up in costumes on the last day in October. The little ones often dress like their favorite super heroes, villains or characters out of fairy tales and cartoons, going door to door seeking candy. Often teens are like this on the Internet; they pretend or hide behind a mask of disillusion, while others come to share feelings they could not otherwise express to their family or friends.
Everyone has feelings, whether they are a victim, bully or a bystander. Even though Michael was a superstar known the world over, he was still a human being with real feelings; he said, “I'm just like anyone. I cut and I bleed. And I embarrass easily.”
As we grow from teens into our adulthood, pain and happiness is learned on many different levels. Just because you are in pain doesn't mean that someone else's pain is greater or lesser than yours. Pain is pain, and we all will experience it in our lifetime. So when you see or talk with someone on the Internet, remember that these are real people, with real feelings, dealing with real issues. Treat others with the same respect in which you wish to be treated. Cyberbullying is a very serious matter!
Below are some examples of the way kids and teens bully online, effects of cyberbullying, and ways you can prevent cyberbullying. The Internet is not all bad, it is a window to the world we live in, and we can gain substantial knowledge from it. How we utilize the Internet is the problem. We can put an end to the cyberbullying, but it must start with awareness; educating ourselves and learning how we can take part in stopping it!
A Victim of Cyberbullying:
In memory of Ryan Patrick Halligan 1989 - 2003*
*Please note: This video contains words and images referenced to being a victim of Cyberbullying, resulting in suicide. May not be suitable for young children.
Sending someone mean or threatening emails, instant messages, or text messages
Excluding someone from an instant messenger buddy list or blocking their email for no reason
Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others
Breaking into someone's email or instant message account to send cruel or untrue messages while posing as that person
Many teens feel that getting even with a bully will solve everything, but what they fail to realize is… they then become the Bully.
Creating websites to make fun of another person such as a classmate or teacher
Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.
The effects of cyberbullying:
It occurs mostly in the child's own home. Being bullied at home can take away the place children feel most safe.
It can be harsher. Often kids say things online that they wouldn't say in person, mainly because they can't see the other person's reaction.
It can be far reaching. Kids can send emails making fun of someone to their entire class or school with a few clicks, or post them on a website for the whole world to see.
It can be anonymous. Cyberbullies often hide behind screen names and email addresses that don't identify who they are. Not knowing who is responsible for bullying messages can add to a victim's insecurity.
It may seem inescapable. It may seem easy to get away from a cyberbully by just getting offline, but for some kids not going online takes away one of the major places they socialize.
Cyberbullying can be a complicated issue, especially for adults who are not as familiar with using the Internet, instant messenger, or chat rooms as kids. But like more typical forms of bullying, it can be prevented when kids know how to protect themselves and parents are available to help.
Being a victim of cyberbullying can be a common and painful experience. Some youth who cyberbully:
Pretend they are other people online to trick others
Spread lies and rumors about victims
Trick people into revealing personal information
Send or forward mean text messages
Post pictures of victims without their consent
When teens were asked why they think others cyberbully, 81 percent said that cyberbullies think it’s funny. Other teens believe that youth who cyberbully:
Don’t think it’s a big deal
Don’t think about the consequences
Are encouraged by friends
Think everybody cyberbullies
Think they won’t get caught
How can you help stop cyberbullying?
Teens have figured out ways to prevent online bullying. Follow in the footsteps of other quick-thinking teens and:
Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages
Tell friends to stop cyberbullying
Block communication with cyberbullies
Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult
You can also help prevent cyberbullying by:
Speaking with other students, as well as teachers and school administrators, to develop rules against cyberbullying
Raising awareness of the cyberbullying problem in your community by holding an assembly and creating fliers to give to younger kids or parents
Sharing NCPC’s anti-cyberbullying message with friends
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.
Check out the following resources to learn more about preventing cyberbullying:
Cyberbullying.usprovides cyberbullying research, stories, cases, downloads, fact sheets, tips and strategies, news headlines, a blog, and a number of other helpful resources on their comprehensive public service website.
www.stopcyberbullying.orghas a fun quiz to rate your online behavior, information about why some people cyberbully, and how to stop yourself from cyberbullying.