I hate you...everyone hates you too!...you are ugly and fat!...you are stupid and dumb!
I wish you were dead!
I have pictures of you I will post online, secret pictures! If you try and report me I will hack into your computer!
I will kill you! I know where you live and how to get you when you're alone!....
Chilling. Even more so when you read this from the comfort of your own home computer. Think about how frightening this would be if received by an 11-year old.
How Often Are Kids Netbullied?
Netbullying takes place far more often than most adults realize. Few kids have gotten away without knowing someone who has been netbullied, netbullied someone else or been the victim of netbullying themselves.
Unfortunately...thousands of 11-year olds and other preteens and young teens receive these and similar threats and hateful messages every single day. Yet for some reason, it has remained under their parents' radar. In polls we have taken, more than half of the children/preteens between the ages of 9 and 14 we polled in person at grammar and middle schools in the United States (approximately 2000 children) have either experienced netbullying or had a close friend who did or had netbullied another. If you want to know how prevalent it is, ask a school. They deal with these issues every single day.
Why Has This Gotten in Under a Parent's Radar?
Far too often they are afraid to tell their parents and try to deal with this on their own. They fear that their parents will over-react, perhaps blaming them. They are also afraid of what the bully will do if confronted. So, they don't tell their parents knowing that they will report it to the shcool or perhaps the parents of the netbully.
Alone dealing with a frightening and humiliating situation, the kids may try and block the bully's communication, only to find them using another screen name and continuing the harassment. It may start offline and move online, or vice versa. It may start online or by cell phone and stay there too. And rarely is the parents informed until it has gotten out of control.
What is Netbullying or Cyberbullying?
Net Bullying (or cyberbullying) is when children or teens are bullied, embarassed, threatened or harassed by another child or teen using interactive technologies. These may include instant messaging, cell phones, interactive games, text-messaging, websites, profiles, blog, discussion boards, guestbooks and provocative postings and websites targeting the other with humilations.
Sometimes the bullying takes place through the use of a website where the victims are ridiculed by being voted the ugliest, fattest or sluttiest student in the school. Sometimes cell phone cameras are used to take pictures of the victim in a locker room or dressing room or in an otherwise compromising situation. Their passwords may be stolen and they may find themselves locked out of their own accounts or blamed for hateful messages sent out by the bully posing as the victim. Their faces may be superimposed on pornographic images. Or their personal information may be posted online and used to provoke an offline attack by a hate or predator group. The methods used by bullies online are limited only by the limitless imagination of other preteens and teens.
And it's a growing problem.
Why Do Kids Bully Each Other Online?
There are many reasons kids bully each other online. Sometimes they are bored and looking for entertainment. Sometimes they are nursing a grudge and want to hurt the other. They may see themselves are righteous avengers, righting the wrongs of the intented victim. They may be the victim of an offline bullying or another netbully, striking back the only way they can. They may be jealous, hurt or just role-playing. They may not even mean to netbully another. They might have just had their communications misunderstood or misdelivered.
Each type of netbully requires a different approach. They ways we can stop and prevent them are different. And our educational campaigns have to cover all different motiviations to be effective. And the approach to helping the victim differs depending on why they have been bullied. While all victims need support and caring and understanding, there is a difference between the victim merely being in the wrong cyberplace at the wrong time and being the intended victim of a dangerous multi-pronged campaign of harassment and terror. The educational and prevention programs need to consider these differences as well.
Where Do You Report It?
There is no easy answer about where you should report bullying online. It depends on a number of circumstances, like the kind of communications, the level of harassment and when and how the communications are made.
Schools may try and take action when a student is bullied online. But they often find themselves defending an expensive lawsuit brought by the irate parent of the bully charging them with overstepping their authority. Schools have limited authority to address actions that take place outside of school grounds and off-hours unless it is a school-sponsored activity. Since most netbullying occurs from the bully's home computer after school, it may be outside fo the scope of a school's authority.
Unless the school plans carefully in advance and builds their authority into their acceptable use contracts, they may not be authorized to act.
Law enforcement is typically unprepared to deal with cyberharassment cases, specially when children are involved. They may be unable to conduct a cyber-investigation, and may not be able to find a crime to hang their hat on. While many cases of bullying online may be illegal, especially when hacking and death threats are involved, much of what occurs is not a crime.
ISPs are often the best place to start, after the bully's parents have been contacted, or if the victim doesn't know for sure the identity fo their bully. Most netbullying violates the ISPs terms of service. And if the case is recorded and reported correctly, the ISP may shut down the netbully's account.
What Can You Do To Stop It?
What should a young person do if they are bullied online or by text-messaging or interactive gaming devices? At what point should they tell a parent, ignore the bully (blocking them from further communications) or get the police involved? When can a school take action and what can it do in advance to give it greater authority when the actions bullying the student take place online and off of school grounds?
How do we help prevent the escalation of a bullying situation online? How do we spot the bullying websites early enough to prevent serious damage to the victim and potential bodily harm? What are the laws and what should they be? How can we get the ISP's help? And what can we do to shutdown a bullying message board, profile, guestbook or website?
I'll address these and other questions about bullying online here at Net Bullies.com and at InternetSuperHeroes.org. And if you need help, feel free to reach out to our help volunteers at WiredSafety.org. We are the world's largest Internet safety and help group, comprised entirely of unpaid volunteers from around the world. We're here if you need us.
To reach me, send me an e-mail to Parry@Aftab.com or through the contact information at Aftab.com. You can also visit my blog at theprivacylawyer.blogspot.com.