When the word “bully” comes to mind, people think of the tough boy or the gossipy girl on the playground. However, with their vast knowledge and use of technology, children are beginning to do more of their bullying online. According to a recent phone study of 886 Internet users age 12 to 17, 32 percent of all teens online have experienced cyberbullying, as it is called. Cyberbullying is a trickier, sneakier way of humiliating other children by sending threatening or humiliating messages, posing as the victim and turning their friends against them, posting humiliating pictures, or spreading rumors online.

Girls are more likely to become both victims and bullies. A cyber bully one day can become a cyber victim the next, especially if their victims find out who had sabotaged them. The consequences of these actions go beyond hurt feelings. Children have been known to be murdered and committed suicide over these incidents. Other times, parents of victims want to pursue criminal charges. The users lose their ISP and IM accounts by violating their service contract. Whenever a password or identity is stolen, it can be handled by the state and federal law as a serious criminal act.

There are two ways that children cyber bully. One method is called a direct attack. Here, the bully confronts the victim directly through instant/text messaging, stealing passwords, blogging, posting negative material on websites, sending pictures through e-mail and cell phones, internet polling about the victim, interactive gaming, sending malicious code, sending porn and other junk mail, and impersonating someone else. Another way they can bully others is through cyberbullying by proxy. Here, the cyber bully uses someone else to taunt their victim. They can get accomplices to say something about a person. They can even involve adults which then becomes cyber stalking which can be especially dangerous if the adult doesn’t know they are dealing with kids. Sometimes, kids notify ISP or IM companies that their victim has done something to violate their rules. They then receive a warning that they could lose their account. In retaliation, the victim then lashes out at the bully who notifies the service again to make it look like the victim started it, and they lose their account. They can also set up a new account pretending to be the victim and sending offensive messages to people on their buddy list to upset their friends.
The only way to truly stop cyberbullying is to not allow kids online. However, there are some preventative steps that schools and parents try to take in order to alleviate this problem. However, when schools get involved, they tend to be sued for exceeding authority and violating a student’s freedom of speech. Whenever they receive anonymous tips, however, they can help notify authorities to shut down the site or confront the bully.

Parents need to be aware of the presence of online bullying, but they are usually the last ones to know about an incident since victims are too ashamed to get them involved or become labeled as a snitch. Still, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing and be willing and able to appropriately help or punish them when needed.
For related articles visit http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/06/28/cyber.bully.ap/index.html and http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/take_action/take_a_stand_against_cyberbullying.html.

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