Bullies have emerged in cyberspace and are striking across the country, able to steal a kid’s pride instead of his lunch money.
“Cyberbullying consists of a person who uses the anonymity of the Internet to ridicule, make fun of or put down another person on an Internet conversation website, such as a chat room, a bulletin board, MySpace or Facebook,” says Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies at Kansas State University in MAnhattan, Kansas.
At the heart of any bully is actually a coward who uses his or her advantage to humiliate, demean or embarass. Instead of working on their own issues, bullies pick on others to feel better about themselves. The difference is that the cyberbully gets more coverage and a wider exposure. One catty remark can hit thousands of people in a very short period of time.
This increased exposure can make it difficult for victims of cyberbullying. To challenge someone after being put down online takes courage. Kids think “It’s already out there, and I cannot do anything about it,” and this makes them feel helpless.
Cyberbullying must be addressed at home, in school and through society as a whole, says professor Jurich. Parents must equip their children with skills to deal with bullying appropriately. Students must be smart about what they reveal. The less information that a child or adolescent puts out on the Internet, the safer they will most likely be.
But it is no guarantee. Even if kids turn off their computers, they can still be victimized by cyberbullies who use them to ridicule for something that has happened at school.
It is important that children know the steps to take if they are a victim of cyberbullying. Encourage them to talk if you feel they have been bullied online. Communicate the importance of printing a hard copy of an insulting remark. And be sure to alert other parents, teachers and even state police, if necessary.