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Things You Should Know About...

Cyber Bullying
B y : J e n n i f e r W i l s o n

March 1, 2011

The students in Ms. Jay’s 5th grade class have each been assigned an Instant Message (IM) name in order to communicate with their classmates and instructor via chat rooms and IM. Each student received an Internet Permission form that was signed by their parents and returned. The class has been communicating all year through IM’s and chat rooms, whenever it was needed outside of class. The teacher has split up each student into small groups to complete an assignment. Ms. Jay notices that this past week one of the groups has been arguing a lot, but thinks nothing of it. Recently, one of Ms. Jay’s students, Jasmine, has been receiving Instant Messages from someone with the screen name “sweetvixen.” The messages start off saying small things that Jasmine just shrugs off, such as “Your clothes didn’t match today. We need to go shopping. Are you getting braces? I have noticed your teeth are a bit crooked. Why did you sit with Julie and Nikki today? I don’t think you should sit with them, they are fat.” Jasmine does not report the IMs to anyone. A few weeks later the IMs begin to get more and more frequent. Sweetvixen was sending Jasmine the same two instant messages every couple days, “I hate you; you are worthless and dumb. I will get you” and “Hey there dummy! I am getting closer, and I see you on the computer right now as you read this.” Jasmine still refused to discuss the IM’s with her family, friends, or even her teacher. She just tries to just forget about all of the messages she has been receiving, but still can’t seem to shake them from her mind. By the beginning of the next week, the IMs are being sent on a daily basis. This time, the IM’s are even more threatening and scary: “Good morning smelly girl! I just wanted to tell you that you looked really fat today; you are a fat cow, oh and always remember I know where you live, so be ready. I’m coming after you.” This time Jasmine is starting to worry but doesn’t want to tell her parents because she is concerned they will take away her Internet privileges and doesn’t want to tell her teacher because she doesn’t want her teachers to think she is tattling.
Picture by Chris Kasurak and can be located at -bully-794906.html

On Thursday, February 24th a final IM is sent to Jasmine that read, “You should be very afraid. Today may be your last ugly girl. I don’t like you and I don’t want you going to my school anymore.” Definitely frightened and concerned, she decides to finally tell her parents about the IMs she has been receiving when she returns home from school that day.

What is it?
"Cyberbullying" (also known as “Electronic Bullying” or “Online Social Cruelty”) can be defined as a set of interactions between two minors where one or a group of minors is/are tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another individual or group of individuals, such as a child, preteen or teen, using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or mobile phones (WiredKids, n.d.). The cyberbully would use those electronic technologies in order to facilitate, deliberate, and repeatedly harass and threaten an individual or group (Trolley, Hansel, & Shields, n.d.). Cyber bullying does not involve adults, instead, when an adult is involved, cyber bullying becomes cyber-harassment or cyber stalking (Anderson & Greenbaum, 2010). Cyber bullying typically starts at about 9 years of age and usually ends after 14 years of age; after 14, it becomes cyber or sexual harassment due to nature of acts and age of those involved (Trolley et al., n.d.). According to WiredKids (n.d.), a group of lawyers and lay people who developed the site to provide its visitors with interesting information about cyberbullying and as a campaign to stop it, cyberbullying can happen to anyone that is considered an adolescent, pre-teen, or a teen. Cyberbullying is usually not a one-time communication. The Internet has created an environment of supposed anonymity, which leaves the extent of cyberbullying open to the imagination of the child (Anderson & Greenbaum, 2010) due to the wide variety of technology offered in today’s society. In this increasingly global world of information, students must be taught to seek diverse perspectives, gather and use information ethically, and use social tools responsibly and safely (Anderson et al., 2010). As students develop these skills they will ultimately become more skillful Internet information consumers (Walker, 2010) and will be able to maintain more informed and appropriate decisions when it comes to the World Wide Web. There is a tension between young people’s technical and social immersion with digital media and their relatively limited development and life experience compared to adults as stated by Dr. Walker (2010). Students are more tech-savvy than many adults due to their upbringing in an alldigital world. Therefore, this reality seems to introduce students to more dangers and vulnerability, which tends to allows others to capitalize on those vulnerabilities and ultimately the need for constant protection from adults.

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Who is doing it?
Cyber bullying is currently a fairly common practice among school-age children that begins at the elementary level and peaks during the middle school grades (Anderson et al., 2010). Those that cyber bully others do so either alone or with a group of other students. They are often motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. WiredKids (n.d.) identifies the following reasons as to why a child would cyber bully another child: Sometimes they do it for entertainment or because they are bored and have too much time on their hands and too many tech toys available to them. Many do it for laughs or to get a reaction. Some do it by accident, and either send a message to the wrong recipient or didn't think before they did something. The Internet has created an environment of supposed anonymity, which leaves the extent of cyber bullying open to the imagination of the child and the access that the child has to technology (Anderson et al., 2010). According to Anderson et al. (2010), information about incidences of cyber bullying and victimization are found online and are reported in the media more so than in scholarly journals, thus far. Recently there have been a number of cyber bullying incidences that have taken place throughout the country and the world. As described by Anderson et al. (2010), one of the most well-known incidences of cyber bullying involved the Canadian teen who gained notoriety as “the Star Wars kid” after millions of people downloaded a video that one of his classmates had confiscated and posted online of him filming himself acting out a scene from the movie “Star Wars.” For this teen, who filmed himself swinging a golf ball retriever as his light saber, one goofy moment in the privacy of his own home made him the laughingstock of his peers; news reports stated that he dropped out of school for a while and was under psychiatric care. In June, 2006, a newspaper article published a story about violent threats that were made on a popular socializing web site to a group of students described as “Goths” because of their dark clothing and heavy make-up. School officials involved law enforcement because of the escalation of the conflict, and some parents kept their children home from school because of safety concerns. While these horror stories may constitute some of the more extreme and publicized examples of cyber bullying, empirical research is beginning to uncover evidence that this form of aggression is becoming a widespread problem for society’s youth (Anderson et al., 2010). In 2006, Megan Meier killed herself after the mother of a former friend created a fictitious profile to harass the Missouri 13-year-old. Three years earlier, 13-year-old Ryan Patrick Halligan of Vermont hung himself after he'd been bullied online. Just this past year, in 2010, in Lewisville, Texas, a 9year-old boy hung himself in the nurse's bathroom at his elementary

This photo can be located at the Cyberbullying Research Center using the link below:

“Home sweet home is no longer a sanctuary into which victims of bullying can escape their tormentors. Bullies can now stalk their prey after school hours long after their targets have gone home.” - Anton Hout Founder,

How does it work?
The 7 examples of cyberbullying was identified by Vodafone (2011). Vodafone (2011), cyberbullies are using new technologies to make threats, intimidate, harass, defame, demean, and exclude young people and, in some cases, to impersonate them or steal their identity. Some of the most common methods are: 1. Text – inappropriate or threatening text messages 2. Nuisance/prank calls – calling another, persistently, on their phone and saying inappropriate things 3. Publishing and sharing images without your child’s permission – photos, videos, and/or webcam footage of an individual or group of individuals that could be circulated via email or text, posted online, or tagged with their name on a public website 4. “Happy slapping” or Internet Polling – cyberbullies use their mobiles to take photos or videos of your child while they verbally or physically abuse them 5. Email and Instant Message (IM) – your child might receive nasty or threatening emails or IMs from someone they know or a stranger 6. Chat room and/or social networks – a fellow chat room user might say rude things to, or about, a child, while others may post inappropriate messages about a child on a site such as Bebo, Facebook or MySpace, or possibly set up a fake profile about the child 7. Interactive gaming – if a child plays multi-player games, a fellow gamer might try to block or ignore them. Research shows that this kind of online ostracism can have an impact on self-esteem

Why is it significant?
Many states in our country have made extensive anti-bullying policies that can be as strict as zero-tolerance. Cyberbullying and suicides, of our youth, has become more prevalent than in the years past, as sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter become more popular and widely used. These social networking sites are being used by students to cyberbully their classmates. Many school districts that run on networks have blocked these social networks from any usage while at the schools, but the problem lies in cellular phones becoming more like mini -computers than phones. Students are able to post to these social networks while in class or in the library, where many teachers, media specialist, and/or administrators are left clueless as to what is actually occurring within the school. Many school officials, parents, and students deem the library as a "Safe Zone," then there should be absolutely no way that anyone should be able to access any social network while on school property, even while on a phone. WiredKids (n.d.) discussed the following about schools and cyberbullying: When schools try and get involved by disciplining the student for cyberbullying actions that took place off-campus and outside of school hours, they are often sued for exceeding their authority and violating the student's free speech right. They also, often lose. Schools can be very effective brokers in working with the parents to stop and remedy cyber bullying situations. They can also educate the students on cyber ethics and the law. If schools are creative, they can sometimes avoid the claim that their actions exceeded their legal authority for off-campus cyberbully ing actions. A provision should be added to the school's acceptable use policy reserving the right to discipline the student for actions taken offcampus if they are intended to have an effect on a student or they adversely affect the safety and well-being of student while in school, which would make it a contractual, not a constitu tional, issue.

Photo can be located using the link below at Principals Essentials: benefit_bullying.html

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What are the downsides?
Since technology is now being used as a vehicle for bullying, serious attention is warranted to investigate the extent and nature of this new form of aggression and the possible psychosocial effects is has on youth (Campfield, 2008). There are so many different ways that cyberbullying can occur that it is almost virtually impossible for one to eliminate all forms of technology within a school. In doing this, a school or district may take the chance of seeing lower test scores and being identified as a “non-competitive school.” Peer victimization, such as from cyberbullying, may increase vulnerability for psychosocial maladjustment, including internalizing problems, loneliness, and low selfesteem, in which certain emotional, social, and behavioral problems may make children and adolescents easy targets for bullying (Campfield, 2008). Many people say that being bullied is often viewed as a normal part of being a kid and growing up, that it’s a “rite of passage” for child, but ultimately cyberbullying has a huge negative impact on its victims. Studies have shown that victims feel a wide variety of negative emotions as a result of being cyberbullied. Many students will feel angry, hurt, sad, depressed, embarrassed, afraid, threatened, etc. These feelings can also cause a victim to experience negative behaviors within their everyday lives. Some of those experiences are poor concentration at school, grades dropping, being absent more frequently, lashing out at authority, being disrespectful, and many more. These behaviors and feelings may cause a student to resolve or “medicate” their problems with violence (mainly to themselves) and/or the usage of alcohol and/or drugs. Cyberbullying ultimately has long term effects on an individual and/or groups of individuals.
This photo can be located using the link below: http:// m/?p=1770

Where is it going?
I see the future of cyberbullying and its victims becoming more prevalent than years past, due to the vast array of technology tools we are developing every day. Hopefully, schools, parents, students, and other officials will realize the immediate need for a change in laws and how children use some of these technology tools and/or websites and a plan will be devised in order to secure their safety. There is no such thing as Cyber Police, as of now, but maybe in the near future our society will form a task force that will devote their time to Cyber bullying. More than likely we will continue to react to the bad things that happen on-line, rather than pro-active. In 5 or 10 years, I hope that we will have transitioned and pushed cyberbullying out the window. Hopefully parents will be more aware of the issues of the Internet and become cyber natives. The cyber world will be able to navigate its way through the system and cyberbullying will not be just another life and/or learning experience that students have to face or deal with. The website BullyBeware stated: The tremendous good that the Cyber World holds for the learners of today and tomorrow will always be overshadowed by the mismanagement of messaging systems when they are used to slander, embarrass humiliate and exclude people from their peer group. And as many ways as there are to learn new things, there will be ways to bully others. In 10 years, things will be the same, in that cyber bullying will still be going on, but it will be different because we will have become accustomed to dealing with these types of cyber issues. Some cyber sup porters compare the tools of paper and pencil to the tools of the keyboard and the cyber world. Their argument suggests that, even though children wrote nasty notes to each other and about each other and sent them around the room, we never banned the use of paper and pencils for learning. The same should be true of the cyber world.

“There is often a really fine line between what is funny, what is offensive and to what degree someone is offended.“
- Tyler Rousseau

What are the implications for teaching and learning?
Within the constantly changing 21st Century, and the constant need for new skills, there will always be a need for technology. Using technology in a safe and logical manner where a student is able to maintain learning (and their education). Being able to think critically, make informed decisions, apply knowledge that has been taught into new situations will help a student develop the skills needed in order to be a more productive and knowledgeable learner. Educators, including media specialist, must provide students with the opportunities, skills, and tools needed to develop and maintain information seeking behaviors through collaborative tasks and lessons that are developed based on the learners capabilities.

Photo can be found at Health Learns using the following link:

(October 2010). "Cyber bullying." S-press, p. 4. American Association of School Librarians (2007). Standards for the 21st-century learner. Available from http:// Atherton J S (2011) Learning and Teaching; Piaget's developmental theory [On-line: UK] retrieved 1 March 2011 from BullyBeware (2009, December 15). The mushroom cloud of cyber bullying: A prediction about what the future holds . Retrieved from Campfield, D. C. (2008). Cyber bullying and victimization: Psychosocial characteristics of bullies, victims, and bully/ victims. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. Cyberbullying Research Center. (2010). [Bar graph illustrating those that have been cyberbullied based on gender and how February 2010]. Summary of our cyberbullying research from 2004-2010. Retrieved from http:// Hitchcock, J. A. (2007). Cyberbullies, online predators, and what to do about them. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 14(3). James, S. D. (2010, January 26). Immigrant teen taunted by cyberbullies hangs herself. ABC News. Retrieved from id=9660938 Rousseau, T. (2007, February 22). Cyberbullying and libraries. [Blog]. Retrieved from http:// (2011, February 15). Trolley, B., Hansel, C., & Shields, L. (n.d.). Cyber Bullying: Demystifying and deescalating cyber bulling [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Vodafone (2011). What is cyberbullying. Vodafone Parents’ Guide. Retrieved from cyberbullying Walker, J. (2010, Jun 21). Kids and online information credibility: Latest research findings. Retrieved from http:// WiredKids (n.d.). Stop cyberbullying. Retrieved from

Photo can be located at Bebo using the link below: