written by: Finn Orfano•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 4/13/2009
An introduction to understanding cyberbullying.
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Who Are Cyberbullies?
Cyberbullies are typically harassers who restrict their abusing, intimidating, or threatening activities to online activities. These situations typically, but not always, don’t compromise physical safety because there usually isn’t a physical threat.
Cell phones, text messaging, email, social networking communities and video games are children’s lifelines to their world. These electronic communications can also be social death for the person who is the target of cyberbullying.
Bullying in the schoolyard or on the internet is about power and control. When children travel around the internet as they do their neighborhood, getting slammed on a website can be just as embarrassing and devastating as getting slammed against a playground wall. Through e-mail, blogs, social networking communities, phones, text messages or video messages, tormentors and bullies can get right into their victims' homes without knocking on the door. Bullies can harass while the target’s parents are in the next room oblivious to the trauma happening. Groups sometimes gang up on one student or child and bombard the target with "flame" e-mails containing gossip, hateful sentiments or even threats; or they can infect the target’s computer or phone. Cyberbullying is a growing problem.
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Cyberbullies vs Schoolyard Bullies
When children feel there aren't consequences for their actions and communications, they take liberties. The anonymity of the internet can provide a safe environment for a shy child to take chances practicing self assertion or it can embolden bullies.
Cyberbullies are not different than everyday bullies. The same vicious gossip, cruel stunts, threatening remarks, unreasonable dares, humiliation or embarrassing pictures or rumors are now available on the victim’s social lifeline 24 hours a day – everyday. The safe retreat at home can now not exist. Cyberbullying gives the targeted child the same feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness as everyday bullying. Cyberbullying can be in any number of disguises:
Threatening or harassing email, text messages, pictures
Online verbal abuse (flaming)
Anonymous mass unsolicited email (spam) from the target’s email address or an overabundance to the target’s email address
Improper (mean, demeaning, harassing, hateful, indecent, obscene, vicious) messages at forums, newsgroups, guestbooks, chatrooms, social networking websites, or text messages from or to the target’s online identity or account
Email forgery seemingly from the target to people known like co-workers, employers, neighbors, friends, teachers, etc.
Tricking someone to reveal sensitive personal information and then broadcast, post, or send the information to other people.