By: Tony Dillett

(xiii) Cyber-bullying
Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves the exercise of power by an individual over someone that is weaker. This behavior is not a one time occurrence but is repeated over time until the person being victimized becomes totally helpless and fearful of the person who is intimidating him/her. Traditionally, schoolyard bullying took several forms that included physical and verbal abuse. It also took the form of intimidation and social isolation. That type of bullying still goes on but another more dangerous form has come on the scene with the advent of the Internet. This type of bullying can be even more dangerous because the perpetrator can do damage and remain anonymous. Sometimes it is more difficult to identify the culprit. However, help is only a mouse click away by employing a monitoring software that can be accessed by clicking on the following links SpectorSoft for Windows or SpectorSofr for Macintosh. Cyber-bullying is when someone repeatedly makes fun of another person online

or repeatedly picks on another person through emails or text messages, or uses online forums and postings online intended to harm, damage, humiliate or isolate another person that they don¶t like. (Wikipedia) The National Crime Prevention Council also weighed in on this matter and stipulated that cyber-bullying is when a person uses an electronic device such as the Internet, cell phone, email, post text or images to embarrass, hurt or harm another person. Whatever form bullying takes, whether it is the old fashioned kind or the technologically advanced cyber-bullying, this type of behavior is not to be tolerated and must be stamped out no matter where it originates.

Schoolyard bullying and cyber bullying are different and experts in the former type of bullying might not be able to understand fully the insidious nature of putting things out there in cyberspace that are not as tangible as the bully in the schoolyard. As mentioned above cyber bullying can be done anonymously. The bully in the schoolyard is

seen and is known by all who suffer at his or her hands. Schools can and should be actively involved in bullying on school premises and on busses as they transport children to and from school. However, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to be involved in cyber bullying that takes place outside of school hours. If schools become involved in cyber bullying that takes place off school premises, they could be criticized,

or worse sued, for exceeding their authority and for violating the child¶s freedom of speech.

One of the themes throughout this e-book is the critical involvement of parents in their children¶s cyberspace experience. Parents¶ involvement in this area is no exception. Children must be aware that their parents are their first line of defense against anyone who would do them harm and this includes the cyber bully. Parents must learn to be less reactive to perceived wrong doing on the part of our children, be more supportive and listen to what they have to say. Sometime parents must just listen and not be quick to interject their thought on any given subject. Ask ³Do you want to hear what I think?¶, rather than give opinions or answers to questions that have not even been asked. Parents will be pleasantly surprised at how much good will they will establish with their children. This will eventually lead to trust and openness particularly when children are afraid and unsure of action they should take in a given circumstance. Assure your child that you are there to help and not to make things worse for them.

Cyber bullying usually takes two forms -- direct attacks and cyber bullying by proxy: Direct Attacks encompasses action aimed directly at an individual and includes such direct communication methods as: Instant messaging (IM) sending hurtful or threatening messages to other children Blogs: online journals that may be used maliciously to spread rumors about other children Internet Polling: Sending out messages to other children in the same school asking who is the prettiest, ugliest, who is dumb, etc

Sexting: Sending nude, semi nude or degrading pictures of children. This type of direct attack is punishable by law and may carry the stigma of branding the offender as a child molester. (refer tos cribd.com for a more detailed coverage of this subject) Cyber bullying by Proxy: The bully gets someone else to do their work. Even parents may be caught up in this web without realizing that they are being used. Internet account: The bully gets hold of a victim¶s account and sends out emails in the victim¶s name Parents may be duped into thinking their child is doing something wrong and punishes the child.

The Cyber bully can post information about a victim in hate group¶s chat rooms or in child molester¶s chat rooms. All the bully has to do is provide the screen name and/or cell phone number in the chat rooms.

According to Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org), some 24% of teens they polled admitted that they had ³hacked into someone else¶s social network, giving them the ability to communicate as that person.´ This information confirms the very serious threat and actuality of bullies using their computer savvy to intimidate and harass other teens. Common Sense Media has also pointed out that parents are out of the loop and really underestimate how much time their children are spending in social networks. ³Families need to keep up regular conversations about life in a digital world and what it means to be a safe, smart digital citizen -- including ethical behavior, privacy, bullying, and reputation management.´

It cannot be overstressed that parents must be involved in the lives of their children, not in an overbearing manner or in any way infringe on their privacy. This is a very delicate road to travel in dealing with teenagers but bear in mind that their safety is of paramount importance. It is very important that your children are aware of your

concerns while at the same time give them their space to grow into confident, productive adults.

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