Cyberbullying – what is it?

Do your children surf the Internet regularly? Do they have their own mobile phone? If the answer is yes, then cyberbullying is something you should be aware of.

We’ve all heard of (or have even been victims of...) bullying. We can remember our school days when school bullies picked on other children in the school yard and harassed them. Those bullies had names and faces that we could recognize and there were a lot of things we could do: we could try to stay away from them, we could report them to the authorities, we could ask our parents to speak to their parents and there were often other people who witnessed the bullying acts who could later tell what happened.

But the widespread use of the Internet, mobile phones and other digital communication means has brought with it a new type of bullying – cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is an extension of bullying, with “a twist”. There are ways to deal with this kind of bullying too.

But before we try to understand how to prevent it or even how to deal with it, let’s first try to understand what it is.

So what is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the sending or posting of damaging or cruel text or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices such as:
  • web pages
  • Instant Messaging (IM) programs, such as ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and others
  • Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, etc.
  • chat rooms
  • forums
  • discussion groups and interactive game sites
  • e-mail
  • blogs
  • mobile phones
  • virtual worlds

According to Bill Belsey from cyberbullying is defined as:
The use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.

Cyberbaiting - teachers are victims
Another variation of cyberbullying that has recently come to attention is Cyberbaiting - A student irritates his teacher until the latter loses his temper. The student then films the incident on his mobile phone and uploads the video onto the Internet, with the aim of embarrassing the teacher and the school. According to recent studies, 20 percent of teachers have personally experienced or knows another teacher who has experienced cyberbaiting.

How is cyberbullying different from “just” bullying?
  • Availability: cyberbullying can occur any time (24/7), anywhere, even in “safe” contentPageTitles such as the home or school
  • Anonymity: the cyber bully can easily hide behind a fake identity
  • Wide distribution: e-mail and text messages are easily and quickly distributed to a wide audience (viral), increasing the victim’s suffering. A single message posted online or sent to a mobile phone can spread to a wide audience.
  • Permanency: offensive content on the Internet doesn’t “go away”, it can resurface at any time
  • Democracy: anyone can be a victim, even a teacher!
  • Intent: a forwarded private message or joke becomes offensive or harassing even though that was not the intent of the original sender

Show me how it’s done...

Cyberbullying can take different forms. Here are a few examples of straightforward cyberbullying:
  • Threatening or unwanted e-mails
    “Do my homework for me, or I’ll beat you up so bad…”

  • Spreading rumors
    “Jennifer is a slut, she puts out”
    or even
    creating a dedicated “We Hate Sam” website with jokes, cartoons, gossip, and rumors about Sam

  • Impersonating the cyberbullying victim and sending negative messages, and/or inciting or seductive messages in his name in order to get that person in trouble or danger or to damage that person’s reputation or friendships

  • Harassment of the victim in a chat, usually anonymously
    “Everyone knows you have bad breath” by: gorgeous

  • Sending of pornographic or other offensive images

  • Uploading nude images to a social networking site or to YouTube

  • Sending negative messages directly to the victim, using e-mail, texting or instant messaging programs
    “u r fat n ugly!!”

  • Online fights using angry and vulgar language (flaming)
    “You’re so stupid, your baby brother is smarter than you”
    “Look who’s talking …the dumb midget”
    “Wait for me tomorrow after school and I’ll show you who’s talking”

  • Intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group

  • Cyberstalking: repeated, intense harassment and denigration that includes threats or creates significant fear.

In addition to these straight forward messages; cyber bullies have developed all kinds of techniques to evade standard content filters. Some of these are:
  • Intentional misspelling
    Beehatch – biatch (used for the word “bitch”)

  • IM (Instant Messaging) abbreviations
    Gnoc – get naked on camera
    Gypo – get your pants off
    I h8 u – I hate you

  • Letter Substitutions
    Ni99er – (Use of the number 9 instead of “g”)

  • Homoglyphs
    ?atch ur ????¡¡¡ (watch your back)
And there are many more examples, some of them very explicit.

See also:

Tags: cyberbullying

"PureSight Owl 2011 can detect cyberbullying in IM, terminate the conversation, block the perpetrator, and notify Mom; impressive!.."
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