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Abby, 13, recently entered therapy after being repeatedly harassed by her peers. Abby stated, "The other day, this girl with a username I didn’t recognize left a message on my MySpace page that said ‘go to my page, bitch.’ My friend Becca was over, so we checked it out. This girl had a list on her page of the school’s ‘Biggest Hos’, or promiscuous students, and my name was at the top of the list! I thought, who spends their time doing something like that! But it really hurt. I don’t want to go back to school, because now everybody has seen my name on that list."
As you know, the combination social networking site and internet diary MySpace is increasingly popular among students, as are numerous other such sites. Cyberspace has certainly changed the lives of adolescents today; how they talk to their friends, how they do homework, and even how they pick on each other.
♦ # 1 - Gender Variation
Girls self-report more incidents of cyberbullying than boys. Nearly one third of the eighth grade girls surveyed reported being bullied online in the past two months, compared with 10% of the boys. 17% of the eighth grade girls surveyed indicated they had participated in cyberbullying in the past two months, compared to ten percent of the boys.
♦ #2 - Effects of Cyberbullying
One of the earliest examples of this is the case of Ghyslain Raza, a student from Quebec. During his 10th grade year, Raza used school video equipment to film a sequence of himself emulating a Star Wars fight scene. Raza forgot to erase the tape he initially used. Classmates found this tape, and uploaded the footage to the internet as a prank. The video was downloaded millions of times, enough for the media to dub Raza the "Star Wars kid". Raza was so humiliated that he sought counseling and left his school.
♦ #3 - Anonymity Factor
Perry Aftab, founder of an online nonprofit called WiredSafety.org, interviewed a 13-year-old from New Jersey who had the hobby of making death threats against strangers online. The boy would gather information about his victims from chat rooms or personal websites, then threaten the strangers as if he knew them. The student stated to Aftab, 'I would never do anything in real life. I'm a good kid. But I can do it online because it doesn't matter.'
Understandably, this anonymity also increases the terror for the victims of cyberbullying. Angie, age 14, stated, "The other day I got an instant message from a username I didn’t recognize. I thought it was a friend with a new screen name, so I asked who it was. They responded with this creepy teasing, and links to porn sites. It sounded like they knew about me. I ended up blocking the screen name so they couldn’t talk to me, but I didn’t know who they were or what they were trying to do. It really scared me!"
♦ #4 - Impact at School
One group of seventh-grade Vancouver girls was recently caught in an instant messaging game where the girls would vote on who would be their next school target for ostracism. Unfortunately for teachers, while many forms of physical and relational bullying can be observed directly on school grounds, cyberbullying is invisible unless someone comes forward. This makes the job of addressing this victimization very difficult.
I find that an initial reaction from many parents who find that their child is an online victim or victimizer is to cut off the student’s internet access. However, as you know, experts have agreed that severing a student’s online access is not a sound solution.
According to Brittany Bacon, an FBI-trained WiredSafety.org volunteer, the internet is no longer just an advantage for students. Students are now at a disadvantage if they do not have access to the internet. Bacon suggests that instead, parents should reinforce the process of students learning boundaries and manners in cyberspace, just as they should in other areas of society.
♦ Five Steps to Internet Safety
In this section, we have discussed four important factors concerning cyber bullying. These factors are, gender variation, effects of cyberbullying, the anonymity factor, and the impact at school.
In the next section, we will discuss two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying. These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.