Friday, February 24th is International STAND UP to Bullying Day. It’s true – there have been bullies for as long as there have been people. But social media has made it easier than ever for bullies to attack. Yes, I’m referring to cyber bullying. What is it and what can be done to stop it? By definition, cyber bullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another using the Internet, interactive, and digital technologies or mobile phones.
There are two main types of cyber bullying. The first includes direct attacks from one kid to another. The second is cyber bullying by proxy, which means using others to help cyber bully the victim. Sometimes without the accomplice’s knowledge. Cyber bullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, so it’s much more dangerous.
Cyber bullying may be an extension of traditional bullying – the act of pushing around weaker kids who are seen as different. But sometimes it’s the victims using the digital world to seek out revenge when they can’t fight back on the schoolyard. Most often, it includes either written physical threats or humiliation, like posting embarrassing stories or photos. Too often youth use aggressive abbreviations like: BIH – Burn in Hell, BYTABM – Beat You To A Bloody Mess, DIAH – Die In A Hole or GKY – Go Kill Yourself. Sadly this last one happens all too often to victims who don’t know where to turn for help.
But there are things kids can do, like blocking the cyber bully and limiting communications to friends only. They can tell a trusted adult so they don’t have to face the bullying alone. Kids should be encouraged to Google themselves so they can see what is being said about them online. And if necessary take steps to remove inappropriate posts or personal information that can be used to harass them further. This is actually a good idea for everyone, not just kids. And adults can educate kids about the consequences of cyber bullying.
It starts by encouraging kids to respect one another. Let’s all take a stand against bullying of all types. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can hurt too. For more information or to report instances of cyber bullying, go to wiredsafety.org.