Cyber Bullying

Technology has certainly changed most of our day-to-day lives and has changed the way people communicate. Cellular phones, text messaging and social networking sites provide an excellent way to communicate with our friends and family. However, there has been a growing concern surrounding "cyber-bullying" among children who use these electronic means to communicate. Cyber-bullying can exist at all age levels, but for this article I will focus mainly on children and teenagers. The National Crime Prevention Council describes cyber-bullying as follows: "When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person." In many instances cyber-bullies use cellular phones to disseminate embarrassing photographs or vicious rumors about other people. Or, the same embarrassing photograph(s) or rumor(s) could be posted on social networking sites where they can be viewed by many different people in a matter of minutes. Therefore, it's safe to say the electronic communication technology certainly wins the race against the old fashion rumor mill.

Cyber-bullying can also be in the form of e-mails to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. It can also be in the form of sexual remarks, false statements, ridicule in online forums, and posting false statements. Online forums involving cyber-bullying can be especially alarming. In many instances, several teens will gang up on victims and through a collaborative effort make victims the subject of ridicule for humiliation purposes. Cyber-bullies may also disclose victims' personal data, full names, addresses, and/or schools on website forums, which could also be problematic for victims. On October 16th, 2006, 13-year old Megan Meier was discovered in her bedroom after she hanged herself. Megan died the following the day after this apparent suicide. An investigation by authorities determined Megan was the victim of cyber-bullying on popular social networking site. Megan met a 16-year boy on the Internet and had what was described as a flirtatious relationship. Although Megan had never spoke to the boy "Josh" on the phone or in person, he claimed to have moved nearby and said he was home schooled. Megan and "Josh" became online friends. However, on October 15th, 2006, the friendship between Megan and "Josh" changed. Megan began receiving email messages from "Josh" regarding her (Megan) not being nice to friends and some the emails Megan sent to "Josh" were posted on public forums. Some of the comments that were posted about Megan were inappropriate and therefore will not be written in this article.

About six weeks after Megan committed suicide it was determined that "Josh" never existed. The online profile was created by a 47-year old woman in Megan's neighborhood as a hoax. The woman was ultimately tried in Federal Court and was found not guilty on some of charges and a misdemeanor charge was set aside by the judge.

Raising awareness of Cyber bullying can help prevent these acts from happening. Also, knowing what your child is doing on the Internet can prevent cyber trouble. Although that sounds easy enough, deciphering what is actually being said can be challenging. For example you might see your child type something similar to this, "Hey hold on BRB my PRW! TTYL my PNR!" What is actually being said is: Hey hold on I will be right back my parent is watching! Talk to you later, my parent is in the room! The National Crime Prevention Council's website has a lot of useful information and I would encourage anyone with questions to visit their website.

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