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Cyberbullying The Harassment That Never Sleeps

Cyberbullying has become the fastest growing form of bullying and can be much more damaging and harmful than the traditional schoolyard bullying. Those who have been bullied and have themselves been bullies show a higher incidence of anxiety, depression and absenteeism than those who were only bullies or only victims. Those who had no involvement in cyberbullying had the highest self-esteem and academic performance.

The old saying that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you, is wrong. Words often leave more of a psychological mark than physical attacks because our physical body often heals faster than our mind mends itself. Words are hard to forget and thus healing can be blocked by our memory of the event which lingers forever.

Cyberbullying is also more elusive. Those bullied are more helpless and powerless in many ways because it is difficult to fight back. In many cases, those bullied don’t even know who or where the attacks are coming from. It leaves the targeted person even more defenseless.

Facts and Stats on Cyberbullying

• 48% of kids interviewed said they couldn’t identify the bully

• 52% could identify the bully

• 36% of targeted kids reported that a “friend” was the bully

With the more traditional schoolyard bullying, it all ends at about 3:00 p.m. and you get a break from it, assuming you return to a supportive home life. With cyberbullying, the attacks may be there 24/7 and can spread to thousands in just days. There is no supervision, so how do you stop it?

Steps to Stop Cyberbullying

1. Use filtering and tracking software, but don’t depend on it completely as personal monitoring and supervision is also required.

2. With all bullying, teach children their basic rights to not be a victim of intimidation. There are resources and help is available, but permission must be given to speak up.

3. Make yourself accessible and develop open communications with your children so it is easy for them to reach out. Only 51% of preteens and 35% of teens report their experiences with bullying to their parents so do not assume all is well. Ask!

4. A fast and immediate response has more impact. Don’t waste time and don’t think time will heal things. Not blocking bad behavior rewards it.

5. If the bully is a friend, ask to discuss differences and share your desire to resolve the misunderstanding.

6. If the harassment continues, report it to parents, teachers, or authorities who can help.

7. Do not delete your emails as you may need them to confirm your allegations.

8. Change your phone number and email address.

9. There are legal resources available such as JustAnswer.com/Law/Harassment.

Kids are getting more and more creative in their efforts to harm another and cyberbullying magnifies their efforts. Not only may the attacks be direct, but also by proxy which is when a bully gets someone else to do the bullying and that person may be totally unaware he is being “used” by the bully. Adults can thus be involved and are not aware they are dealing with a child which may lead to doing serious time in prison. The setups are sophisticated and strategic. For example, a cyberbully may pose as the victim to then get his intended target in trouble with the school or his parents and thus victimize him covertly. I sure wish some of this ingenuity and creativity would be applied to solving the social problems of the world.

Bullies pride themselves in being creative in their attacks on another’s self-esteem and how they can create the most pain. For example, kids will create a three-way call where two friends are talking about the third person who is listening in on the call but thinks they don’t know it. Although the cutting remarks are staged, the target believes every slanderous word to be true.

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