Any day of the week you can turn on the Dr. Phil Show, Oprah, or any other talk show and you will find they are discussing bullying. This topic has become a big topic because there is such an increase in not only the schoolyard bullying, but now it has turned into the electronic world as well. Bullies can now post things about people that hurt, and it doesn't just stay in the schoolyard. It is there for the world to see.
The anonymity of the Internet has allowed children to feel a little more at ease at being the "Tough Guy". It is like in the old days before call display. Making those prank phone calls because there was no way to find out who was calling.
Although the typical bully is someone in the schoolyard everyone knows and fears, today the online bully can be much more intimidating and damaging to our youth. The children of today have an interactive world away from supervision. Most children spend their time online alone, with no adult supervision, which gives them the opportunity to get into trouble. Bullies tend to do their work away from adults so the Internet is the perfect place to reach others, anytime, anyplace while staying somewhat anonymous. That means that the victims are not even safe in their own home anymore. The place where they used to be able to escape from bullies has now been lost with the wired world.
There are many ways bullies can reach their victims online. E-mails or instant messaging is obviously the favorite way to send threats or insults. They can also post messages on schoolmate's blog sites or guest books. Kids seem to share their passwords to e-mail accounts with their friends and in the hands of a bully that can be very dangerous. Children should never share their passwords to anything with anybody. There have been cases where bullies have created a whole website to target individuals who they feel the need to intimidate.
There have been cases where camera-enabled cell phones have been used to take pictures of students in the shower, and then posted on a website or distributed through e-mail, as well as posted on blog sites, and web pages. The Internet does make it hard to tackle the bully problem because when these incidents happen at school the teachers can be made aware of it and do something about it, but the Cyber-bully makes it difficult to detect in schools and it is not the jurisdiction of the school any longer.
I mentioned earlier in the book how people can intimidate using online chats combined with using Trojan programs to hack into someone's computer and make them do things in fear. Fear of getting in trouble with their parents or others, and this is just another way bullies can manipulate and make a child's life miserable. What are the laws in regards to online bullying? In Canada, is there an offence in the Criminal Code for such a thing? Well, it all depends on the case but the youth in Canada should be aware that some forms of online bullying are considered to be criminal acts.
The Criminal Code of Canada states that it is a crime to communicate repeatedly with someone if your communication causes them to fear for their own safety or the safety of others.
Online Bullies may be violating the Canadian Human Rights Act, if they spread hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.
It would also be a crime to publish a "defamatory libel" or to write something that is designed to insult a person or likely to injure a person's reputation by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt or ridicule.
Signs that your child may be a victim of a cyber-bully would be their reluctant use of the Internet all of a sudden. Your child may also be reluctant to attend school, faking sick or getting very anxious and nervous before leaving for school. Keep an eye on these signs, and then open the communication with your child to find out what the problem really is.
So what should the parent do? What action should we take in these types of situations? Easy answer - Get Involved!
The best way to combat cyber-bullies is to prevent bullying before it happens, and we do this by getting involved and educating our children. We should learn everything we can about the Internet (which is why you are reading this book - good for you) and talk to them about what they are doing online. What sites they visit and what they use the Internet for most. Find out what sites they are going to and who they are talking to, and do they have their own personal websites up for all to see.
We also have to let our children know that they can come to us anytime and talk to us if there was something that made them feel uncomfortable or threatening that they viewed online. When our children come to us with these concerns it is extremely important not to get upset or excited when they tell us these things; that is the way to make sure they never talk about it to us again.
We should also make sure our children understand the rules to Internet use. They have to be responsible when online by not posting or saying anything to others on the net that they would not want others to say to them. Make sure they understand that everything they say or post is up there for the whole world to see (including you as a parent).
I really suggest an online agreement that is signed by you and your child. I have included one in the CD attached to this book, for you to print out and sign with your child, with the basic rules for Internet use. This is very similar to the agreement I had with my parents about drinking and driving when I was a teen. Research has shown that in homes where parents have clear rules against certain kinds of activities, young people are much less likely to engage in them. So do up a contract with your children on responsible Internet use. If you find your child is being bullied online you have to take action! If it is a schoolmate you should meet with school officials to meet the problem head-on and make the school aware there is a problem. Watch for the signs of bullying, and report any incident of online harassment and physical threats to your local police agency.
Cyber-bullying is the use of electronic information and communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, mobile phones, pagers and defamatory websites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks or other means, and it may constitute a computer crime. Cyber-bullying is willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. Like bullying, cyber-bullying involves recurring harm and can be distinguished from peer harassment as a subset of aggressive behavior because bullying represents a pattern of behavior committed over a period of time.
Ways to Bully
Sending cruel, vicious, and sometimes threatening messages.
Creating web sites that have stories, cartoons, pictures, and jokes ridiculing others.
Posting pictures of classmates online with intent to embarrass them.
Breaking into an e-mail account and sending vicious or embarrassing material to others.
Engaging someone in IM (instant messaging), tricking that person into revealing sensitive personal information, and forwarding that information to others.
Taking a picture of a person using a digital phone camera and sending that picture to others without consent.
Tips for Kids
Do not respond to/engage in the abuse. No back and forth.
Talk to someone about it. Ignoring bullying leads to escalation.
Keep records/print off messages if possible, to help identify the bully.
If necessary, get a new number, account, give it out one person at a time and keep a diary to record any abuse. Your tormentor may be closer than you think.
Take a break - Unplug.
Tips for Parents
Make bullying a more "talkable" subject.
Place and keep the computer in an open, common area.
Inform Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone service provider of abuse.
Do not erase messages; keep for evidence.
Software help - McAfee Parental Controls filter both IM and Chat Rooms.
This article was written by Rob Nickel, "The Cyber Safety Expert". Rob is a professional speaker and ex-police officer who worked 7 years online undercover with Internet Predators and Pedophiles. Rob is globally recognized as an expert in online undercover investigations and has lectured all over the world on Internet Investigations, and Internet Safety. Rob's book "Staying Safe in a Wired World" (featured on Dr. Phil, Good Day New York, CNBC and hundreds of Radio and Magazine articles) and information on Rob Nickel can be found at www.cyber-safety.com.