Cyber Bullying: A New Kind of Victim
Types of cyber bulling can include any of the following:
- posting hateful comments
- sending abusive messages
- forwarding personal information to others without permission
- posting pictures or videos of someone without permission
- slandering or dispersing defamatory information about someone (spreading rumors)
- using any type of social media to cause pain to another
Megan is alone in her room, or so she thinks. Her heart is pounding, and she knows that it's coming. Inevitably, her phone lights up to her her know that she has a Facebook notification. She's been waiting for it.Saturday nights are never without these awful intrusions.
She's fighting herself, wishing she could ignore it. But soon, she can't resist. Everyone will have seen it by now, and many will have joined in. She steels herself and checks her phone.
"Hey fatty! You enjoying your donuts?"
"You definitely beat anorexia!"
"How can you even stand to look at yourself?!"
Megan is devastated. She's seen it all before, but each comment brings on a new wave of pain. She can't take it anymore. She writes a note to her mom, apologizing for being such a disappointment. Megan cries as she swallows pill after pill. Soon... too soon... Megan is gone.
Before the Internet
In the past, there have been two main types of bullying among students: direct and indirect.
Direct bullying consists of verbal abuse, forceful removal of personal property, and physical violence.
Indirect bullying involved actions such as exclusion of the victim or spreading rumors.
Previous to social networking, bullying in schools was a very personal assault. For the most part, students had known each other for years. There would be, albeit ridiculous, reasons behind the attacks. Also, there were other students actively or passively participating in the assault or exclusion. Bullying was a way for students to exert power over one another or a way to create a social hierarchy.
In a school setting, there is also an authority figure to intercede with the bullying. Educators are trained in procedures to follow when they encounter an incident, and they can stop the assault right then and there. They also have the ability to inflict immediate consequences on the aggressor. These consequences can serve to set an example for other students in order to show that antagonistic behavior will not be tolerated.
Granted, the issue of bullying will most likely always be problematic in school systems, but there are ways to help curb the number and severity of the consequences.
Cyber bullying has created many new ways for students to torment their peers. For example:
- They could pretend that they are different people in order to trick others into revealing personal information or opinions.
- They could spread lies and rumors much more easily and efficiently, and the information is available to a much larger audience.
- They could post embarrassing or humiliating photos of the victim without his or her consent.
The ability to post anonymously contributes to the bravery of the attackers because they have no real fear of being caught or retaliated against.
What's worse is that the bullying behavior is no longer confined to the school campus. These attacks can be made anywhere and anytime. The victim is not safe from assault simply because they are not on school grounds. The attackers are also doing this from the comfort of their own homes, and, to some bullies, it is simply a form of entertainment.
Have you ever been a cyber bully?
Students who are questions about their bullying behavior tend to respond similarly. They say that they do not think that it is a "big deal." They are even encouraged by friends to attack their peers. A big problem also stems from the fact that they do not believe they will get caught. This is legitimate reasoning because, unlike in a school setting where there are teachers and staff, there are no designated authority figures to police this bullying behavior. The attacks continue unchecked unless the victims speak up, which they are often unwilling to do. Even then, there may not be any consequences for the attackers.
Resources on How You Can Help
When I first graduated from high school, I spent four years coaching middle school color guard. For the most part, the girls were very friendly and courteous to one another, and many became best friends. However, one situation occurred about halfway through my second year as a coach.
One girl decided that it would be funny to capture an image with her cell phone of a fellow guard member while she was changing in the locker room. The picture did not contain any serious nudity, but the victim was portrayed with no shirt on. The attacker, then, uploaded the image to Facebook and asked her friends to rank the photo.
Many of the students who attended school with the girls saw and commented on the image. In addition, the image was almost instantly copied onto several other sites, and the victim was completely humiliated.
Her parents were enraged and immediately contacted the school officials.
Because the actual photo taking occurred on the school campus, the school administrators had the authority to punish the attacker. She was removed from the color guard team, and she was suspended from school for a week.
The victim, on the other hand, was traumatized by the event. She transferred to a different school and cut all contact with her previous friends.
That kind of hurt can be so detrimental to the emotional health of a young girl, and this case was no exception.
This documentary is an inspiring film following the parents and students dealing with bullies. It is an extremely revealing film that shows just how severe the problem is, and it highlights how many school staff members will turn a blind eye to the problems. If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend seeing this movie.
Activity For Students
The Crumpled Paper Activity
I followed the trail as best as I could, and I ended up at a blog that describes the activity in wonderful detail. The following is a direct quote:
"The teacher gave each student a clean crisp sheet of paper. She then instructed the class to crumble up the piece of paper, toss it around, get angry with it, and stomp on it.
After which, she told the students to return to their seats (with their piece of paper), flatten it out on the top of their desks, making it as flat and perfect as they can, and finally, apologize to the paper.
When all the students had done their best to iron out the paper and apologize to it, the teacher picked up the paper on the first classmates desk, held it up so the entire class could see it and said:
If this piece of paper had been another person, and you had done all those things to him or her, by making them feel less than perfect (through your words or actions), these are the scars you would leave. That person would never be the same, no matter how many times you tell them you are sorry, no matter how many times you try to smooth things out..."
This is such a great way to introduce the topic of bullying in a classroom. Students need to be taught to realize how their actions can affect people.
Call to Action
It has become very obvious just how serious the problem is. The attackers are becoming more and more harsh, and the victims are too afraid or embarrassed to bring attention to the problem or to ask for help. In addition, these attacks are happening all day, everyday. The victims have no escape.
As a society, we ned to realize that these students need us to intervene. We cannot allow this problem to continue unchecked. We need to set up some form of policies or rules in order to help deter students from this kind of aggressive behavior, and we need to make sure that those being attacked know that they will have concern and support from the adults in their lives.
Otherwise, cyber bullying may grow and irreparably damage a large part of our nation's youth.
© 2013 Stephanie Constantino