Cyber-Bullying: The New Female Terrorism by Bruce W. Cameron, M.S., LPC-S, LSOTP, CAS

Some Basics on This New Form of Relational Aggression

Do you ever remember being bullied during recess or at the playground? Well, now it's becoming very common place that there are bullies on the internet and in chat rooms. Research into the causes and effects of cyber-bullying is still in its infancy. But it is becoming clear that aspects of online communication encourage people to act aggressively, prompting them to do things they wouldn't dare to try in real life.

1. There is now the ability to reach more people, and the 'always-on' culture of the internet, means that cyber-bullying can have an even more detrimental effect on the victim than conventional playground bullying. "It's school-yard bullying taken to the next level," that for 1 in 8 young people cyber-bullying is even worse than physical bullying.

Another reason cyber-bullying is so harmful is its relentlessness, . There is no escape. teens are dependent on the internet for communicating with their peers. "This is the always-on generation," says Kowalski. "This is how they communicate." A 2007 Pew study found that 93 per cent of US teens use the internet and 61 per cent go online daily.

The internet doesn't just amplify the effect of bullying, however. The many options to remain anonymous when online, by using pseudonyms for instant messaging, say, means people can write things they would not dare to if their identity was known. The lack of face-to-face contact might tempt bullies to new levels of cruelty. "On the playground, seeing the stress and pain of the victim face-to-face can act as an inhibitor to some degree. "In cyberspace, where there is no visual contact, you get more extreme behavior. The effect is unique to computer-mediated communication. "There is a distancing of the self and immediacy in response that we don't have in any other form of communication," she says. "On the computer, it's like it's not really you."

While educators have embraced technology and have incorporated it in the classroom to enhance the learning experience, they have been met with a number of challenges as a result of emerging new media.

When it comes to schools taking disciplinary action with cyber bullying the trick seems to be determining whether the conflict originated from a school computer or a private one.

Policies regarding cyber bullying should clearly distinguish between conflict that was initiated on and off campus since the latter would raise first amendment issues. Civil liberties could also be at stake if the district chooses to monitor students’ online activity and filtering access to certain sites from school activities.

But even if the conflict started off campus, the district could have some regulatory power if those issues spill over into the classroom.

“We are learning by experience in this age of technology because as these issues arrive, districts are working diligently to find a response that protects the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals, but also make sure all kids feel safe in their learning environment.

The responsibility also falls on the parent to take some initiative and understand their children’s world, learning about the trends in which adolescents are interested

It’s affecting kids as they’re growing up and they need to know they can go to their parents about something as serious as cyber bullying.”

COMFORT FROM BEHIND THE COMPUTER

In January of last year, Malibu High School made headlines after administrators discovered that several videos poking fun at teachers and students were posted on YouTube. Among the videos were some that questioned the sexuality of several students. Both videos were subsequently removed by YouTube at the request of the school.


But aside from the e-mail and video Web sites, bullying has also made its way into the social networking realm, finding a venue through sites like Facebook and MySpace where antagonism can come in the form of comments being posted on a student’s personal page.

There are numerous factors going into the shift in bullying from the real world to the cyber world, most notably the instantaneous nature of the Internet.

“Before, when you get into a fight with someone at school, you went home, festered about it ... slept on it and maybe weren’t so pent up [the next day].
“The problem is now when they get home, they can instantly post a mean thing on someone’s (Facebook) wall, can slander them through an IM. The internet and cyber bullying has eliminated that tense and nervous feeling that some students might have in face-to-face confrontations, making online bullying an even more attractive alternative.

“It’s hard to walk up to someone in their face and say to them that I hate you,” she said. “It’s much easier to write in a message and send it to a few friends so you don’t see the repercussion.


Bullying methods
Whether through instant messages, text messaging, chat rooms, social networking sites or e-mail, the tactics of the cyberbully are familiar variations on timeless tactics of humiliation.

IM’ing, one of the most common means of bullying, allows children to send degrading comments that their targets receive instantly when they’re online. In more elaborate schemes, students befriend their victims for minutes, weeks or months, getting them to share secrets, say personal things or send photographs that the bully can then distribute to classmates as a way to embarrass the target.

The more hurtful bullying often happens on social networking sites., such as Myspace, Xanga and others.

While traditional bullying seems to peak in the fourth and fifth grades, cyberbullying happens more frequently during the middle school and early high school years, when kids are getting more freedom and access to the Internet.

It is also happening more often among girls than does traditional schoolyard bullying. Twenty-five percent of cyberbully victims are girls, according to a survey taken by Robin Kowalski, another author of “Cyber Bullying” and a professor of psychology at Clemson University.
The gender differences make sense because cyberbullying is an indirect type of aggression, and we know boys are more likely to participate in direct aggression.

Bullying 24/7
The fact that you don’t have to face your opponent may lead many young people who would not otherwise become bullies to target other children. When they believe their actions are anonymous and don’t have to see directly how their actions are hurting the victim, it makes the activity seem less serious.

But the effects are the same. Both students who are bullied and those who act as the bullies have higher rates of depression and anxiety. The students are more likely to carry a weapon to school, as well.

The Internet’s distant and continuous reach can actually give cyberbullying a greater impact on children than traditional bullying.

Warning signs
While the signs that a child is suffering from traditional bullying may be easier to see, cyberbullying does typically produce red flags, some of them common to all bullying. Signs include:

• Child is upset after being on computer.

• The computer quickly goes black when you walk by.

• Child spends excessive amounts of time on the computer or telephone.

• Child does not want to go to school or hang out with friends.

If parents discover a child is being cyberbullied, they should:

• Use computer and online tools to try to block the bully on e-mail, chat rooms and instant messaging.

• Instruct the child not to open any messages known to be from a bully.

• Try contacting the other child’s parent.

• Report the bullying to that child’s Internet service provider or to the Web site administrator, if it involves specific chat rooms or Web sites.

• If the content is threatening, report the incident to local law enforcement.

• Save the evidence.

Parents should not take cyberbullying as a rite of passage, but as something that can have serious negative effects. Most children will not tell their parents if they are experiencing cyberbullying for fear that their computer access will be taken away.

“A lot of parents, because they are not very tech-savvy, they will put their heads in the sand,” Agatston said. “Even though (many children) do know more technology than you, we know more about the consequences of their actions.

Bullying includes:
People calling you names
Making things up to get you into trouble
Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
Taking things away from you
Damaging your belongings
Stealing your money
Taking your friends away from you
Posting insulting messages on the internet or by IM (cyberbullying)
preading rumors
Threats and intimidation
Making silent or abusive phone calls
Sending you offensive phone texts
Bullies can also frighten you so that you don't want to go to school, so that you pretend to be ill to avoid them.

How to solve the problem
If you are being bullied, tell a friend, tell a teacher and tell your parents. It won't stop unless you do. It can be hard to do this so if you don't feel you can do it in person it might be easier to write a note to your parents explaining how you feel, or perhaps confide in someone outside the immediate family, like a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin and ask them to help you tell your parents what's going on.

Your form tutor needs to know what is going on so try to find a time to tell him/her when it won't be noticeable. You could stay behind on the pretext of needing help with some work. If you don't feel you can do that, then go to the medical room and speak to the school nurse.

The best idea is if a teacher can catch the bullies red-handed. That way, you won't get into bother from anyone for telling tales. It will be clear to everyone what has been going on. Don't be tempted to hit back because you could get hurt or get into trouble. Hitting someone is an assault.

Try to stay in safe areas of the school at break and lunchtime where there are plenty of other people. Bullies don't like witnesses. If you are hurt at school, tell a teacher immediately and ask for it to be written down. Make sure you tell your parents.

Bullying is upsetting ---
Bullying is very upsetting and if you feel you can't cope, tell your parents and go to see your doctor. Many doctors are very sympathetic about the effects of bullying and yours may be able to write a note for the school explaining the effect that bullying is having on your health.

You could think about judo or martial arts classes so that you are confident you can look after yourself if necessary.

If people are making nasty remarks about you then it may be because they are jealous. Perhaps you're better looking than they are or work harder or perhaps the teachers like you better. One way of dealing with remarks is simply to say ...yeah, whatever, .... each time so that you show them that it isn't having the effect of upsetting you in the way they think.

The bullies will have worked out what buttons to push to make you upset.

They may make remarks about:

Your weight
Your looks
The colour of your hair
Your family
Your schoolwork
If you are popular
If you work hard
If you have a disability
If you are a different religion, colour or culture
If you wear spectacles or a hearing aid
If you have dyslexia or dyspraxia
If you've been off school due to illness

Bullying UK gets emails from pupils who have stopped eating because they've been called fat, or stupid because they have dyslexia. One girl tried to burn her freckles off because of cruel remarks.

The thing all these pupils had in common is that they were perfectly ordinary, nice people who had the misfortune to come up against a very nasty person.
3/7/2008 6:19:53 AM
Bruce W. Cameron, LPC-S, LSOTP-S
Counselor and Psychotherapist in Dallas and Southlake Texas. Offers sex addicton counseling, substance abuse, and depression; Practice provides services for addiction, compulsive and disruptive behaviors.
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