How to Stop Cyberbullying
Some practical advice on how to stop and prevent cyberbullying
The first things you need to know about cyberbullying are that it's not an epidemic and it's not killing our children. Yes, it's probably one of the more widespread youth risks on the Internet and yes there are some well publicized cases of cyberbullying victims who have committed suicide, but let's look at this in context.
Bullying has always been a problem among adolescents and, sadly, so has suicide. In the few known cases of suicide after cyberbullying, there are other contributing factors. That's not to diminish the tragedy or suggest that the cyberbullying didn't play a role but--as with all online youth risk, we need to look at what else was going on in the child's life. Even when a suicide or other tragic event doesn't occur, cyberbullying is often accompanied by a pattern of offline bullying and sometimes there are other issues including long-term depression, problems at home, and self-esteem issues. And the most famous case of "cyberbullying"--the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier--was far from typical. Cyberbullying is almost always peer to peer, but this was a case of an adult (the mom of one of Megan's peers) being accused of seeking revenge on a child who had allegedly bullied her own child.
And as for "epidemic," it depends on how you define cyberbullying.
The most commonly recognized definition of bullying includes repeated, unwanted aggressive behavior over a period of time with an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. In theory, that also covers cyberbullying, but some have taken a broader approach to cyberbullying to also include single or occasional episodes of a person insulting another person online. Indeed, because of the possibility of it being forwarded, a single episode of online harassment can have long-term consequences. "'Power' and 'repetition' may be manifested a bit differently online than in traditional bullying, Susan Limber, professor of psychology at Clemson University, said in an interview that appeared in a publication of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. She added, "a student willing to abuse technology can easily wield great power over his or her target just by having the ability to reach a large audience, and often by hiding his or her identity."
Manifestations of cyberbullying include name calling, sending embarrassing pictures, sharing personal information or secrets without permission, and spreading rumors. It can also include trickery, exclusion, and impersonation.
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