Are You Hip to This?
What the Experts Say
- Cyberbullying is just bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
- Cyberbullies might use social media or texts to share personal information about someone, or they might post rumors, lies, and/or embarrassing pictures. Also, they might use another person’s identity to post or send messages.
- Perhaps one of the greatest problems with cyberbullying is that it can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A large scale study of middle and high school students found that almost 50% of students had been targets of online bullying while 33.7% admitted having bullied others online.The study also found that although it may be difficult to identify who is doing the cyberbullying, because it can be done anonymously, a vast majority of students (89%) who reported being cyberbullied who knew the identity of the perpetrator, and most often the perpetrator was someone that was considered a friend. (Mishna et al., 2010).
- Cyberbullying creates new and different problems. For example, since it is not face-to-face, some students find it easier to bully online. In fact, in one large study, researchers found that only 16% of students felt guilty after cyberbullying and 40% felt nothing (Mishna et al., 2010). For students who are targets of cyberbullying, there can be additional effects. Electronic posts can reach a wider audience and are permanent or hard to remove. This permanence can affect college and career opportunities.
- The wider audience leads to a larger number of bystanders. These are people who receive the messages. But the type of bystander you become (active-helpful, active-hurtful, or passive) depends on your actions. An active-helpful bystander is not going to respond with mean comments or forward the message and may reach out to the target with support and empathy.
- The music video Standing Together illustrates the hurtful act of cyberbullying. In the clip, we viewed these three girls laughing together in the hallway. One of the girls sends a message from her cellphone. The three girls seem to be egging each other on and delighting in the activity. We also see a girl standing by her locker alone, when she notices that she had just received a text message. At first, she seems excited at getting a message. But as soon as she reads the message, her happiness turns to despair. She notices right away that the three girls are laughing. Then, as her embarrassment and disappointment increase and become apparent to the three girls, they seem even more delighted and they laugh ever harder.
- In the video, the three girls were cyberbullying while at school. Yet the same message could have been sent any time of the day. In this way, cyberbullying can be non-stop, and many schools have jurisdiction outside of the classroom and school hours in anti-bullying policy for this reason.
- As with all types of bullying, you need to know your rights. Online service providers and social media sites have privacy settings. Like any good detective, evidence is the key to closing a case. If you are a target of cyberbullying, keep evidence and contact an adult, service provider or the police. It is against the law to engage in acts of cyberbullying. Take time to learn the best way to protect yourself in the world of technology! Also, do not give anyone your computer or email password, as people you think are friends may turn out to be perpetrators. Moreover, it is critical to understand how bystanders affect the cycle of cyberbullying. If you are a bystander to cyberbullying, you can help break the cycle. You do not need to assume that it is a private matter. Instead, take action, and show support for the students who are targets by posting words of support for students who are targets by posting words of support such as, “I disagree with what Jan said.” Encourage the target to seek help, report the incident to an adult, and report the post to the site’s security team.