The advent of this technological world has changed the way our children socialize. Children used to pass notes in school and talk by land phone when they wanted to find out the latest gossip or get homework help. With computers in just about every household and most teens owning cell phones, the way they socialize now is through texting and the internet through social sites such as Facebook and MySpace among others. With the anonymity of the internet, bullying on the playground moves into cyberspace quite easily. As Cyberbullying plays out it begins to involve everyone; from the person being bullied, to the bystanders, to the one that may try to stop it. Learn about the effects of cyberbullying on everyone.
Cyberbullying is not an innocent act. The old adage “Sticks and Stones” is proving to be an old wives tale, as cyberbullying deeply affects those involved as these stories prove. Learn about the most common effects of cyberbullying.
Stories of effects of cyberbullying
Tyler Clementi 1992-2010
Tyler Clementi was a bashful 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University (New Jersey) who loved playing the violin. On September 22, 2010, he jumped from the George Washington Bridge effectively ending the cyberbullying he had experienced. Just ten minutes before this tragic act, he posted his last words on his Facebook page: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry”.
A sexual encounter between Clementi and a man was streamed online by first-year students Molly Wei and Dharun Ravi. The video was their second attempt to record Clementi having sex.
Dharun Ravi was found guilty of charges of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, and tampering with evidence and sentenced to thirty days in jail.
Wei testified against Ravi in return for a 300-hour community service sentence.
Jessica Logan 1990-2008
Petite, blue-eyed Jessica Logan was an Ohio teenager who was in her last year of high school when she committed suicide. She had sexted a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend and after they broke up he sent the photo of Jessica around the school. The girls at school harassed Jessica, calling her a “whore” and “slut”, and she tried hiding in the bathroom to avoid the teasing. Her grades started dropping and Jessica started skipping school.
Jessica Logan went to Cincinnati television in May 2008 to tell her story. She had a purpose; “I just want to make sure no one else will have to go through this again.” On July 3, 2008, Jessica went to a funeral of a friend who had committed suicide. When she came home from the funeral, she hung herself. Her mother found her hanging in her closet with her cell phone on the floor a few feet away.
Amanda Todd 1996 – 2012
In the seventh grade, Amanda went into an online chat room and met a man who talked her into showing him her breasts. One year later, he contacted her again through her Facebook page and threatened to release the pictures on the internet if she did not ‘put on a show for him’. He had her address, her name, her school name, and knew who her family and friends were.
He released the pictures, which went viral. Her friends and other kids at school saw them and started bullying her. This caused severe depression and she turned to drugs and alcohol trying to deal with the bullying.
She changed schools and made new friends when a year later the man created a Facebook page using the photo of her breasts as his profile picture. Once again, her friends started ignoring her and the bullying started again. Amanda filmed a YouTube video telling others how she would cry all the time and had lost her new friend thanks to the pictures. She then started self-harm by cutting.
Once again, Amanda changed schools where a boy flirted with her. Girls from the first school found out came to the new school, and beat her as people stood by watched and others filmed the beating. Amanda said, “I was left all alone and left on the ground”. She crawled to the road where she collapsed in a ditch where her father found her.
When she got home, she drank bleach in an attempt to kill herself. She moved again for the fourth time, but the bullying did not stop. Therapy and anti-depressants were not helping with her depression and she continued to self-harm and again attempted suicide.
In September of 2012, she recorded her story on YouTube using flashcards. Sadly, Amanda’s body was found at her home on October 10, 2012.
“My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm“: Amanda’s YouTube Video
13-year Hope Witsell grew up in Sundance Florida, where her only crime was sending a nude photo of herself to a boy she had a crush on. When a friend borrowed his phone, she saw the picture and sent it to other students, who sent it to other friends, who sent it to other schools. This resulted in bullying and taunting from students at Beth Shields Middle School, using insults like “slut” and “whore”.
Hope’s writing in her journal details the sad situation she found herself in. “Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore! And I can’t be a whore I’m too inexperienced. So secretly TONS of people hate me … “
By the end of the school year, school authorities learned of the nude photo and Hope was suspended the first week of eighth grade. When Hope went back to school, her school counsellor noticed cuts on her legs and made her sign a contract called “no harm”. The contract said Hope would promise to tell someone if she felt like harming herself. She agreed to tell an adult if she felt this way. She killed herself the next day. Her journal entry for September 12, 2009, said, “I’m done for sure now. I can feel it in my stomach. I’m going to try and strangle myself. I hope it works.”
To fight against Cyberbullying as a parent it is important to stay connected with your kids. You should be involved developmentally, socially and technologically. Most parents are not as savvy as our kids are when it comes to technology. It is well worth the time to learn about what is going on in the world of technology, cell phone, tablets, and the computer. With guidelines that are age appropriate, encourage your children to be respectful and responsible and they can enjoy the benefits of technology without the need to be cruel.
The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement reported that 6% of students in grades 6–12 experienced Cyber Bullying.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, and Cyberbullying Research Center found that 52% of high school students (grades 9-12) were bullied electronically.
Effects of Cyberbullying: Toddler and Pre-school Years
Technology is a part of their lives and mimicking adults is how they learn. They can click a mouse on the computer, press a number on a cell phone, and run their finger over a smartphone screen. These years they are learning to socialize through talk and can share their toys with playmates. This is the age where children learn hands-on and are using all five senses to learn about their environment.
Effects of Cyberbullying: Advice and Tips
The life skills they need to develop like empathy and decision-making should be nurtured in the early years. They need to develop the ability to learn the consequences of their behaviour. Don’t let the child push your buttons when they demand to play with your phone.
Limit their screen time even in play, and choose programs that are right for their age. Technology should be second next to family time and they learn by example. You should not talk on your cell phone at the dinner table for example, or make or receive texts during family time. Help them learn other ways to combat boredom instead of reaching for an electronic device. Have them talk through their feelings of anger and frustration by encouraging them to use words to express their feelings.
Effects of Cyberbullying: Pre-Teens
Pre-teens find themselves thrust into the online world rather quickly. When pre-teens are together, they watch YouTube, play games, or search the internet. Many times the sites they find are not appropriate for their age. There are sites that are targeted to children of this age where they can play multiple player games and chat. They also may start uploading pictures at this age to some sites geared toward pre-teens, like teen nick games or kidzworld.com. Parents should know exactly which sites children are on and know exactly what they are uploading. Children of this age are starting to text and take photos with their cell phones. Social networking is something they are taking notice of and the potential for abuse can start with these activities.
Pre-teens don’t always understand how anonymous behaviour can affect people. They still have some years before they grasp the full implication, but even pre-teens know the difference between right and wrong.
Effects of Cyberbullying: Advice and Tips
Watch their use, read what they are posting, check their text messages, and tell them you will be watching what they do with the computer and cell phone. Tell them what to do if they are the victim of Cyber Bullying. If they are the ones who are doing the bullying, have strict consequences for these actions, and stick to them.
Teach your child to be respectful online. Chat rooms and online games are a place where innocent comments can turn into ugly confrontations. Make sure they know about flagging and blocking.
CyberBullying Effects: Teenagers
Acceptance by their peers is probably the most important thing for any teenager. Struggling with good choices and making the right decision can be difficult at best. Many teens that are experiencing Cyberbullying may not be willing to tell their parents or another adult. Explain that not telling is the wrong choice. Make sure that if they have a Facebook account you are marked as a friend. Make sure they understand that anything posted online is extremely difficult if not impossible to get rid of. What they may post in fun can come back to haunt them later.
Make sure your child does not spread gossip or rumours about others and if they see it, they should take a stand against Cyberbullying in any form.
Any type of bullying can lead a child to feel hurt, angry, isolated, helpless, or even suicidal. It can lead to problems with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. In many ways, Cyberbullying can be worse than facing your bully in person. Cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere, leaving a child with no place they can feel safe. Many times a cyberbully is someone you may not know personally or maybe an anonymous bully. Being anonymous makes a bully feel bold. They feel they can say anything online that they would normally not say in person. A cyberbully can’t see someone’s reactions to their taunts so they grow bolder.
You may not realize it but thousands of people witness Cyberbullying as emails are forwarded, videos are uploaded and social media posts are linked. These people perpetuate the bullying by forwarding posts instead of stopping them when they receive them. The more people who read the hurtful messages the more humiliation a person suffers.
If your child is the victim of a cyberbully it is very important that they do not respond to anything written about them. This will make the situation even worse and is the exact thing the bully wants so do not play into their hands.
Seeking revenge or Cyberbullying, someone else will only make matters worse and may even result in serious legal problems for your child.
CyberBullying Effects: Ways to Respond
- Save the evidence. Keep all text messages; take a screenshot of a webpage with any messages.
- Report them to an adult, teacher, parents, school counsellor etc.
- Not reporting can make a cyberbully become more antagonistic
- Report any threats of harm or any sexually explicit messages to the police.
- Be relentless. A cyberbully does not stop after one or two incidents so you should not stop the reports either.
- Block the cyberbully’s email address, and cell number, and block them from any social media pages.
- Report them to your ISP. They may be able to help find your tormentor.
- Report to any websites they use to harass you.
Remember, this is not your fault. It does not matter what is said or done, never be ashamed of who you are or what your feelings are. The cyberbully has a problem, not you. In most cases, the cyberbully is someone who is unhappy with their own life and may be frustrated. They want to control others’ lives since they have no control over their own. Stop them in their tracks.
Do not dwell on the messages from a cyberbully. Do not keep reading them. Save them by downloading them to a file on your desktop, and do not read them again. Focus on yourself and the things that are positive in your life. There are many amazing things about you that are unique so be proud of the person you are. It is not easy to think about the future, but you will live through this tough time in your life and grow into a warm loving adult.
Seek help when you are being bullied; talk to your parents, another adult that you trust or your school counsellor. There is nothing wrong with you and seeking counselling should never be considered a bad thing. It helps to talk to someone who can help put this time of your life into perspective.
There are ways to deal with stress such as learning Karate, jogging, learning to box and muscle relaxation. The more time you spend on other activities, the less importance Cyber Bullying can have on your life. Spend time with friends who love you for who you are, not what others say about you.
Tips for Parents and Teachers to Stop CyberBullying
The pain of Cyber Bullying is real and even though children are hurt by this, they still find it hard to tell an adult when it happens. They may worry that their cell phone or computer may be taken away. Parents should monitor a child’s online activity, but removing their cell phone or computer is punishing a child when they are the victim.
Possible warning signs that your child is being cyberbullied
- After using the cell phone or computer, they become angry or sad.
- Looks anxious when they receive texts or IMs
- Is secretive or avoids discussion about cell phone or computer activities
- Abandons friends and withdraws from family and activities
- Drop in grades
- Change in behaviour, or mood
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Signs of depression or anxiety
CyberBullying Effects: CyberBullying and the law
All states have enacted “cyberstalking” or “cyberharassment” laws or laws that clearly include electronic forms of communication coupled with traditional stalking or harassment laws. Concerns about protecting minors from bullying or harassment online have states enacting laws against Cyber Bullying. Each state may have specific language dealing with Cyber Bullying making the laws easier to implement.
The online law dictionary defines cyberstalking as
1. Using the Internet, through chat rooms and e-mail, to find, identify, and arrange to meet a person whom one intends to criminally victimize.
2. Sending multiple e-mails, often on a systematic basis, to annoy, embarrass, intimidate, or threaten a person or to make the person fearful that she or a member of her family or household will be harmed. Also called e-mail harassment.
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviours. Cyberstalking may be considered the most dangerous of the three types of Internet harassment, based on a posing credible threat of harm. Sanctions range from misdemeanours to felonies.
The online law dictionary defines Cyber harassment as the use of cyberspace to harass a target. In Canada, by legal definition, cyber criminal harassment is cyberstalking.
1. Cyberstalking—using cyberspace to control or terrorize a target to the point that he or she fears harm or death, either to oneself or to others close to her or him
2. Is a criminal offence. Normally, in Canada and elsewhere, cyber harassers can expect to deal with legal civil suits, whereas cyber stalkers can expect to deal with legal criminal suits.