“I am going to get you. I know where you live. I am going to kill you and your family.”
As the use of technology both in and out of the classroom has increased, so has the students’ ability to bully others electronically. Cyber bullying in schools has become a major concern over the past few years with students, who were perhaps the victims of traditional bullying themselves, reveling in their ability to take revenge from a distance. As cyber bullying is a distinctly different form of bullying, one must look at cyber bullying facts to develop an approach to halt this insidious form of bullying.
Cyber bullying is the act of threatening, tormenting, humiliating or harassing others through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It can take the form of hundreds of SMS messages sent by one cyber bully or a group racking up horrendous cell phone bills in a matter of minutes, internet polling (i.e.: Whose the fattest/ugliest student), stealing passwords, sending viruses or spyware to the victims computer, impersonation of victims, and blogs or websites designed to degrade and embarrass a particular student or group of students. Cyber bullying and its destructiveness is limited only by the students’ level of creativity and ability to use/access these forms of communication. Cyber bullying has been shown to be the cause suicide and murder in the school age population. It occurs even among elementary students. It is well documented among the middle school population and seems to be somewhat less frequently employed by high school students as they mature, make gains in their self-esteem, and become absorbed in planning for higher education and employment.
Unlike traditional bullying, cyber bullying has shown itself to be much more difficult to deal with as much of it takes place off of school grounds and the parameters for a cyber bully are quite different than your average bully. According to stopcyberbullying.com, cyber bullies can be broken down into four different types of students. Those who justify their vengeance because they feel they are righting some type of wrong, those seeking to take revenge (often having suffered through traditional bullying), those motivated by peer influence and admiration, and those that are responding to something that upset them without thinking about the consequences for their actions. As these four types all stem from different motivations, they require different approaches to identify potential abusers and to help our students protect themselves against their abuse.
Our first recourse against cyber bullying in schools is as always education, both for ourselves and our students. Identification of cyber bullying, its forms and consequences (losing IM or ISP accounts, computer privileges etc.) should be a component of an overall and ongoing program to combat bullying. We need to empower our students through our own “no tolerance” policy for bullying; by teaching them not to respond in kind thus becoming the perpetrator instead of the victim; and being available and taking seriously all complaints about other students which may indicate cyber abuse. Our students do not have to become the next cyber bullying statistics. It is our duty to teach them to use technology responsibly by stressing positive uses of technology in the classroom we can work towards putting an end to cyber bullying in schools.