A Melissa matter: Cyber-bullying is a problem
Aug 22, 2010 | 3045 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Along with cutting-edge technology with computers, Internet and other resources comes a set of significant challenges. Many affect lives in a bad way — even putting some people at risk.

Cyber-bullying, a word that has quickly found its way into many schools, businesses and even employee policy manuals, is something we never heard of just a few years ago. Now it’s a topic discussed often in many circles and circumstances but especially with young people. MySpace and Facebook are often headlined in the media for being “weapons of choice” for cyber-bullies.

According to Wikipedia, cyber-bullying “involves 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.”

The National Crime Prevention Council’s definition of cyber-bullying is “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”

StopCyberbullying.org, an organization established to combat cyber-bullying says it’s a situation in which someone is repeatedly threatened, harassed, embarrassed tormented, humiliated or targeted by another through e-mail, texting, blogs or any other type of digital communication capabilities.

Bullying of any kind causes hurt and keeps on hurting. Schools are a prime location for much of the bullying and cyber-bullying. Most victims go unnoticed. Many do not tell others about the abuse they face, which makes it difficult to get an accurate total, but studies and reports which are available identify how the effects can last a lifetime — even affecting the witnesses of bullying.

Research indicates trouble can develop in the form of lower self-esteem, being fearful, angry, depressed and with increased thoughts of suicide. Sadly some even attempt and achieve suicide. To date there are four known circumstances in the U.S. where a suicide was linked to a cyber-bullying incident.

“It’s a problem that affects almost half of all American Teens,” said The National Crime Prevention Council.

A survey of 1500 students conducted by I-Safe.Org found:

• 42 percent have been bullied while online. One in four have had it happen more than once.

• 35 percent have been threatened online. Nearly one in five had it happen more than once.

• 21 percent have received mean or threatening e-mails, texts or other messages.

• 58 percent admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than four out of 10 say it has happened more than once.

• 58 percent have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them.

Debbie Heimowitz, from Stanford University, researched cyber-bullying through focus groups from different schools. She found over 60 percent of students had been cyber-bullied or were victims. Heimowitz made a film of her study which is used as a teaching tool to classrooms all over the U.S.

Together, as a team, we can help the teachers and school administrators who are trying to stop cyber-bullying.

First, take time to listen. Take the concerns of the victim seriously. Secondly step into action by taking steps to intervene. Encourage students to tell their parents or an adult if they are being cyber-bullied. If you see a student withdrawn, sad, reluctant to socialize or attend school find out why.

Harassment and stalking is illegal in Tennessee and can carry extreme punishments. Nobody should have to live in fear due to a bully.

Check out stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov for more information.