Cyberbullies: Cowards Behind The Keyboard

Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama
Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama | Source

My how things have changed!

It's not like I'm ancient or anything like that. I'm in my 40's! With this in mind, it feels odd to say "Well, in my day..." , a phrase that we've all heard from our elders which often conjures up visual images of Little House On The Prairie and memories our grandparent's woeful tales of walking to school in the snow or riding on horseback and the fact that there was no TV and how they had to entertain themselves, work on the farm at dawn and having to use tiny chalkboards to write on in school rather than laser printing out their latest homework assignments such as is the practice today. Well, it seems my time has come to make use of the phrase regardless of its geriatric implications. So here goes!

In my day when I was a kid in school, we had bullies just as we do today. Usually, if you were being bullied you either told the teacher or your parents and someone would call the bully in along with their parents and someone, perhaps your parents or a school official, would have a talk with them. Or, in many cases when it came to bullies, one would finally get enough and would turn around and stand up to the bully, even if it meant a bloody nose on either or both sides. Typically, the bully was nothing more than a coward and would back down or it would all be settled in an after school fight. I, myself, actually turned on a bully when I was 12 and the tough, scary girl tucked tail and ran after a couple of well placed punches on my part and never bothered me again. Man, did it feel good too! But things have changed. (And NO, I'm not advocating violence! It's just the way things used to be when I was a kid. I'm not saying it's the right way to handle it but I'd tried everything else and that was my last resort. Today, you'd be arrested, both bully and victim)

Nowadays, it's not just kids in school that are harassed and abused by others but adults as well. Bullying has also taken up a new form as well. Cyber-bullying! Using a computer to post vile remarks and threats in order to upset and attack others. The internet and social networks have made it so easy for these cowards to spew their horrid verbal abuses and for them to enlist others in their sick plans. Oh, they're very brave sitting in front their computer screens with their fingers flying while hiding behind a keyboard, aren't they? They think they wont be caught and that there is no way to track them down or they might even believe that they're not violating any laws in harassing their victims at all. Oh, but they have another thing coming! Cyber-bullying is illegal and it isn't that hard for the police to track down the offenders and prosecute them. The field of Computer Forensics is advancing more and more every day and many police departments have their own divisions of professionals who do nothing more than track down offenders and gather information you didn't even know was possible to obtain. (So Bullies, whatcha gonna do when they come for YOU?)

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of several tragic cases of cyber-bullying that I've read about, many resulting in the suicides of their victims. But one case of cyber-bullying hits kind of close to home for me.

I have two friends who are some of the nicest, most generous, loving people I've met over the internet that anyone would be proud to call their friends. To protect their privacy I will not mention their names.They, mostly the lady in this case, are being bullied and harassed by certain people on a social network with no regard for human decency whatsoever.

The two are a couple whom have lost a child. God knows that alone is traumatic enough without some idiot cyber-bullying and harassing them. (On a happier note, the couple are expecting another child very soon and we're all very happy for them and can't wait till this blessed, joyous event comes about.)

These two people, in their grief and a desire to help others like themselves have created a tribute site on a social network in remembrance of their son. Not only is this site a memorial to their child but it's a site in which other parents who have lost children can unite and support one another. Anyone can post a memorial to their own children as well.

This couple knows the pain and anguish of losing a child and instead of wallowing in self pity and giving up, they have reached out to lend a hand of support for others. They are sharing their grief with the world and they are there for anyone who needs a shoulder. They have raised money to help the families of those who have lost a child and they have even reached out to their local hospitals and provided beautiful Memory Boxes to be given to parents who have lost child right there at the hospitals that contain cameras and other things within to help them record their experience and to memorialize their tiny angels forever. They have put on walks to raise money and community awareness and have made beautiful gestures like releasing balloons with tags in memory of these precious children who have passed on. They even raise money for headstones and other memorial type things. Can you believe that they would suffer abuse from a cyber-bully? Especially while the woman is carrying another child and doesn't need the stress. But yet there are some who harass and abuse her. And the kicker is that some of the cyber-bullies are parents who have lost children themselves! And yes, I imagine they are angry with the world and who could blame them, but you can either take that anger and pain and direct it at others, or you can channel it into something positive like they have.

These people are cruel and vicious in their attacks with no regard for what this couple has been through or what they're trying to accomplish  for other grief stricken families. It makes me sick and disgusted and I find myself wanting to get on their sites and hit them back but I think it would make things even worse for the couple. They need support and friendship, not more problems.

Make no mistake, my friends do not take it lying down. Believe me, they will NOT tuck tail and run. But they do not lower themselves to the same level of their attackers. They defend themselves with dignity and grace though they don't mince words in response to their attackers. I am truly in awe of their strength and the bond between them. These people love their friends and find strength in us all but they find their true strength in one another, their other children and in the spirit and memory of their little Angel and the wonderful works they do in his name. They are an amazing family and I wish them nothing but the best of everything. What kind of person attacks a pregnant woman who has lost a child? It's incomprehensible to me. So are all cyber-bullies, really. I don't understand a one of them!

The following are but a few examples of just how cruel cyber-bullies can be and the results of their cowardly acts.

In the UK, 15 year old Phoebe Prince hanged herself after repeatedly being harassed online and in the halls of her very own school by others having seen the online taunts and insults. After this tragic event, one of her cyberbullies coldly and cruelly posted the word "Accomplished" on her profile page. School officials were alerted before Phoebe took her own life but apparently did not act in a timely or appropriate manner. The bullies were later rounded up and called to answer for it. There were at least 9 of them.

Another young girl, 15 year old Holly Grogan, also from the UK jumped to her death from atop a bridge into oncoming traffic. She too was bullied to death. Several girls from her school posted horrible comments about her on her Facebook and even though Holly changed schools, the abuse continued. (The internet follows us everywhere so even in changing your location, in cyberspace, you have to do away with your cyberspace identity to get away from it.) In the article about her tragic death it is said one of her bullies was running around school boo-hooing and remorseful for her part in this. Too little, too late, if you ask me.

Then there was the case in Vermont of 13 year old Ryan Halligan who had a learning disorder which resulted in some minimal bullying at school until Ryan asked his father to buy him a set of martial arts DVDS so he could defend himself against the Bully-ringleader. There was a show down of course and Ryan prevailed and later befriended his attacker. They stayed friends for a while and then Ryan confided in him that he'd had a stomach ailment which required a Doctor's visit and details of the examination. Then, all Hell broke loose. Ryan's supposed friend and former bully started spreading rumors that Ryan was gay. The bully even went as far as having a girl that Ryan had a crush on befriend him and act interested in him in order to gain even more personal information to use to humiliate Ryan, which apparently she did quite happily as well as calling him a Loser one day in front of everyone. Now, Ryan Halligan is dead. He hanged himself on October 7, 2003. His father later found information on his hard drive about suicide sites he'd visited and him talking to a boy whom he didn't recognize encouraging Ryan to go through with the desperate act.

Cyber-bullying seems to know no bounds, geologically or culturally and is an equal opportunity offender. There are people out there that even get on people's memorial sites to abuse their memory and their often the ones who took part in driving these people to the point of suicide and they feel no remorse whatsoever.

Its one thing for children to bully one another because that seems to be part of life and growing up, but to see adults actually doing it is as I've said earlier, is incomprehensible. Don't get me wrong, it's not right for children to do it either, but it has happened to nearly all of us as children. You'd think that being older and wiser would curtail the urge to bully and harass another adult but there are many examples of that not being the case. Even more mind blowing than adults that cyber-bully one another is when an adult cyber-bullies a child!

Some of you may be familiar with the case of 16 year old Megan Meier and Lori Drew, a parent of a teenaged girl that wanted to find out if Megan was badmouthing her daughter.

Lori Drew plain and simply set Megan up for heartbreak when she created a fake profile on Myspace, pretending to be a 16 year old boy named Josh, whom Megan would come to like very much and would later be so hurt by "him" that she ended her own life when he dumped her. Lori Drew even blogged after Megan's suicide that Megan deserved what had happened!

Lori Drew would later be prosecuted for cyber-bullying Megan. In an ironic twist, Lori Drew's attorney would later threaten people who posted retaliatory comments on Lori's blogs with legal action if they didn't stop harassing his client. Lol, I have to say I wouldn't dare harass this witch, Lori Drew, but I wouldn't mind having a few minutes face to face with her to show her the error of her ways. (See link to story below)

Now that I've cited a few cases of cyber-bullying and the tragic outcomes so now I will provide a bit of information on what to do if your child or yourself becomes a victim of some cyber-coward-bully.

Don't respond to them for one thing and never let them see you sweat: That is exactly what they want to see. They do what they do to get a reaction. You must simply deny them that.

Tell someone: Whether you're an adult or a teenager, it's best to let someone in on what's happening in case something happens to you.This is not meant to scare you but you must consider that the possibility of personal, bodily harm can come to you.

Call the police: It is against the law to cyber-bully someone or to make what is referred to in most US states as "Terroristic Threats". If someone is harassing you or your child continually and threatens bodily harm, they can and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Block the offender if you can: Most social networks and websites give you the option to block or ignore people on their sites. You can also report a member for harassment and they can be banned. You can even block people on some email programs as well. On gmail you can filter unwanted emails from offenders to go straight to the trash so you don't have a nasty surprise when you open your inbox.

Be careful who you friend: I've mentioned this in a previous hub I've written titled "When Facebook Attacks". It could be anyone masquerading as a friend who sends the requests and is only trying to gain more intimate access with you. Even though you can delete a post on your wall, it could be a while before you see the comment to delete before everyone else see's it too.

Watch out who you grant access to with I.M.'s and Chats: Chat only with people you already know and don't respond to every little popup "Hey, wazz up?" that comes your way. If someone gets your email address, that's all they need to start a chat or instant messaging session with you and they may be lying about who they are.

Delete your profile if you have to: I've seen more than one person delete a Facebook account and start up new one because of someone harassing them. It can be done and there are settings you can use to keep them from even searching for your new profile.

Pay attention and use your security settings: Keep up with the latest advances in website and social networking security and privacy updates. Pay attention to and use the settings you already have if you haven't given them much thought prior to reading this article. Become familiar with the safety precautions that are available to you and use them.

For more information on how to handle cyber-bullies, check out this website by the National Crime Prevention Counsel. (See link below)

And if you're a victim of cyber-bullying and considering suicide as a solution, please do not do it! There is help available and something can be done. (Please see the link I've provided below. At least give it a look before you do anything else.)

In closing I'd like to express my condolences to all the families and victims of cyber-bullying and to say my thoughts and prayers are with you all. I'd also like to say that we all face bullies at one time or another and we all have had a cyberfight or two but remember that these people that cyberbully others are not right in their heads and they are not to be taken lightly, especially if they make threats against you so you must act if the harassment continues. Don't stand for someone harassing you or those you love. You don't want to find out too late that you shouldn't have let it get that far. You at least have to do something to stop it. I wish you all well and a safe and happy cyberlife. And for you cyber-bullies out there, stop and think about what you're really doing. Your actions can actually result in the death of someone. Your actions can cause you to be arrested. If you feel then need to bully someone, put yourselves in that persons shoes. Would you like it? And don't say you wouldn't care cause if you do, you're lying. If you cyber-bully someone then be well prepared for the consequences.





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    Bullied to death

    Phoebe Prince
    Phoebe Prince | Source

    Bullied to death

    Holly Grogan
    Holly Grogan | Source

    Bullied to death

    Ryan Halligan
    Ryan Halligan | Source

    Bullied to death

    Megan Meier. (also see Lori Drew)
    Megan Meier. (also see Lori Drew) | Source

    Cyber-bully Lori Drew

    Lori Drew, responsible for driving Megan Meier to suicide.
    Lori Drew, responsible for driving Megan Meier to suicide. | Source

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