Research is diverse, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 10 percent of teenagers between 7th and 9th grades experience some form of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying: literally, the act that’s difficult to follow
Cyberbullying can take the form of harassment, threats, accusations, public embarrassment or blackmail. And now with video technology and cell phone cameras revealing photos can also be included, unfortunately, often without the subject’s knowledge.
It is very difficult to detect the cyberbully due to the array of venues for bullying. Since the Internet is used for so many purposes, it is an easily accessible and nearly perpetual means for perpetrators to abuse their victims. Perpetrators of cyberbullying can use cell phones, chat rooms, email, SMS (text messaging) and social networking venues such as Facebook and YouTube.
- Can remain anonymous and yet be completely familiar with the victim
- Easily bully because there is no face-to-face communication
- Manipulate typical relational boundaries.
Instances of cyberbullying can be serious or in jest, and since adolescents are known for risk-taking behavior, it is easy to see how this technology could be exploited.
Feeling oppressed and unsafe
Because it is can occur seven days a week at any hour, cyberbullying feels life-dominating. It feels oppressive to some teenagers because no matter where one is on the computer, the cyberbully can be lurking. Unlike school bullys that are limited by environment, the cyberbully can be online at any time. Research shows most teenage cyberbullies target teenagers from their same school–which gives them some knowledge about their victims. This reality can often create fear and safety concerns.
Cyberbullying can often be used to compensate for a variety of peer relationship problems. For instance, if a teenager feels inferior to peers, he or she can regain that sense of power and dominance through bullying on the Internet. Therefore, the Web can serve as a way for those who are victims of bullying to get their own sense of personal justice.
What can parents do?
Parents should learn all they can about technology and help their teenagers learn appropriate online behavior, thereby playing an important role in preventing bullying.
- Show interest in your teen’s use of technology
- Openly discuss internet use
- Learn what web sites your teenagers regularly visit
Parents can sometimes overreact about Internet bullying. If the reaction is extreme, and as a consequence, the parents do things to embarrass their teenager, the teenager will avoid telling them about other instances of bullying.
One thing parents should not do is blame victimized teenagers. Instead, we should help them end the harassment and protect them from cyberbullies. We want to join them in handling this extremely damaging issue.
If there is a severe threat to your teenager emotionally or physically, you should go to your local police department with evidence of the internet threat. They will advise you as to how to proceed to further investigate the source of the bullying.
It is important to be mindful of and engaged in technology to be wary of this dangerous world of cyberbullying. The potential harm to our teenagers is too great to ignore.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network