Cyber bullying is the use of cell phones, instant messaging, email, chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate someone. Cyber bullying is often done by children, who have increasingly early access to these technologies. The problem is compounded by the fact that a bully can hide behind an electronic veil, disguising his or her true identity. This secrecy makes it difficult to trace the source and encourages bullies to behave more aggressively than they might face-to-face.
Cyber bullying can include such acts as making threats, sending provocative insults or racial or ethnic slurs, gay bashing, attempting to infect the victim’s computer with a virus, and flooding an email inbox with messages. If you are a victim, you can deal with cyberbullying to some extent by limiting computer connection time, not responding to threatening or defamatory messages, and never opening email messages from sources you do not recognize or from known sources of unwanted communications. More active measures include blacklisting or whitelisting email accounts, changing email addresses, changing ISPs, changing cell phone accounts, and attempting to trace the source.
A common form of online bullying is called “bullying by proxy”. Bullying by proxy involves someone who starts the process and then encourages others join in and participate. Bullying by proxy can be especially dangerous because it increases the intimidation factor and adults may get involved with the harassment and it can lead to stalking and other potential crimes.
In the past bullying used to be done by groups using pressure tactics, body language, exclusion and shunning. There are incidents where people and organizations stupidly accepted bribes to do this. The processes that led to what could be viewed as a form of bullying by proxy. There are some high profile court cases that have led to extensive jail terms by the perpetrators. However, it will not help the victims who lost their money, both individuals and organizations.
The methods are diverse, they can take the form of:
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- flaming – using over-the-top, filthy, accusative, offensive language;
- belittling – posting cruel gossip intending to harm someone’s reputation;
- harassment – sending constant and endless hurtful and insulting messages to someone;
- stalking – taking harassment to the level of threatening someone’s safety;
- trolling – provoking people to anger to attempt to get them to inappropriately respond;
- impersonation or imping – an imp pretends to be another person online in order to get that person in trouble or embarrass him or her;
- outing – finding personal and embarrassing information about a person and using this to blackmail or harass them by threatening to reveal it online;
- phishing – tricking a person into revealing personal and financial information.
The methods used by perpetrators is only limited by their imagination and emerging social media.
Parents can deal with cyber bullying by telling their children not to engage in online arguments. Ignored bullies are ineffective, but it takes a strong person to do this and can be a disaster. Keep a file of the bullying activities including posts, emails and messages. These can be tracked and when it comes time to confront the bully or the bully’s parents you have a record. People can be blocked, sites can be alerted, and forums monitored. If forums and sites will not cooperate, leave them behind and find ones that will. Remember: never share personal information with open forums and in unsecured chat rooms.
In some cases, it may be advisable to inform the local police department or consult an attorney. It is not recommended that you retaliate in kind because such behavior can lead to heightened attacks, or even civil actions or criminal charges against you.
If you are not sure what to do and how to handle cyber bullies I would refer to the resource at the top of this article http://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html. Have you been the victim of cyber bullying? What advice would you share?