When I was a young teen there were no smart phones, no texting, no Internet, no wifi, no Facebook, no Twitter, no email, but we did have landlines. It sounds strange to think that we were once limited by the length of the cord on our phones.
My friends and I used our phones constantly. We called each other, and we called boys; sometimes we talked to them; sometimes we called on each other's behalf, which made it very difficult for the boy to ever figure out exactly who did like him; but mostly we hung up in fits of laughter, over and over again. And we could do this because Caller ID had not been invented yet. Ah, the freedoms of the dark ages.
We were limited in our methods of communications: we had a phone at home, pen and paper and we actually talked person to person too. There was no way to spread messages to the masses; for good or evil purposes. Cyberbullying had not been invented either.
It was a different time. Kids didn't have to worry that something they told a friend would be spread to the whole school in a matter of minutes. When I was a teen cameras still had film that had to be developed at a photo booth; there was no instant sharing of this or that. We still passed handwritten notes. I'm sure you remember these days too.
Tech Savvy Teens
Today is a different story. Kids as young as 10 have cell phones and most cell phones have texting capabilities and a camera. Many phones are smart phones that are connected to the Internet and in turn connected to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Sharing and spreading information for the good of the world or to take down a fellow student deemed "easy prey" is at a child's fingertips.
And kids take full advantage of this opportunity. Kids can be ruthless and compassionless; they can be brutal and relentless; they can push and push and push until the target feels utterly alone and begins to believe the things being said about him or her; and that's when it can become deadly. These cruel, heartless acts are called cyberbullying. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. So, it's a great time to talk about this issue, although really anytime is a good time to discuss how to stop bullying.
No one is immune. Cyberbullying is a team sport. It takes only one to start it, but teens If no one paid attention to rumors or laughed at the jokes being made about a fellow student or made comments online regarding these hateful statements or if a student stood up to the bully and sided with the one getting bullied, then cyberbullying would not make an impression on anyone. But it does.
But the truth is cyberbullying does hurt...a lot. The worst part is that there is no reprieve from it; cyberbullying happens at school; it happens at home; it happens on the bus; it happens at anytime and anywhere thanks to our constantly expanding technologies.
So, what exactly is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is using technology to target another person through harassment, embarrassment, humiliation and/or threats. Cyberbullying may not cause physical injuries, but it can be even more devastating since the person being bullied may not know who the bully is, why the bully is focusing on him or her, and the bullying is often witnessed and shared by a large number of students.
Even if there is only one person behind a cyberbullying campaign against another, generally the bullying is perpetuated by other students sharing the comment or photo posted by the bully, forwarding emails started by the bully or by others merely viewing the photos or comments posted and not doing anything to stop this.
Cyberbullying can be very difficult to track and stop since it can be done remotely without the bully ever facing the target in person. It's a cowardly act to bully at all, but cyberbullying is the most cowardly.
While most states now have laws to prevent and/or punish bullying, most do not have provisions that cover cyberbullying. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, only 8 states have laws that include the term cyberbullying. However, 34 states do have laws covering electronic harassment; check your state for specific terms and provisions. You can find your state anti-bullying law here.
For the most part, as mentioned in my article on anti-bullying laws last October, these laws are not very substantive. The majority of the laws consider bullying a school issue, and many state laws merely require school districts to develop an anti-bullying policy and discipline offending students.
Cyberbullying is more difficult to catch and enforce by the very nature of what cyberbullying is. School officials often don't see or even know about the cyberbullying going on since much of it takes place outside of school on personally owned devices; i.e. cell phones and computers.
Preventing and stopping cyberbullying is challenging and takes the vigilance and cooperation of students, parents, school personnel and law enforcements officers/agencies. As a parent, you must be informed about what cyberbullying looks like; what your state/local laws, if any, say about bullying, in general, and cyberbullying, specifically; keep an open line of communication with your child regarding this issue; and properly monitor your child's email communications and the social media sites your child and others his or her age frequently use. I'll have more on educating yourself and others about cyberbullying and ways to prevent and combat it in the next several days. Over and out...