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In the past, bullying only took place face-to-face between the bully and the bullied. With the rise of technology, especially the internet, came a new form of bullying known as cyber bullying.
A survey of 3,000 secondary school students conducted by TOUCH Cyber Wellness showed that one in four students admitted to having bullied their peers online within the past year 1.
Cyber bullying refers to the “deliberate and intentional attempt to cause harm to others through the use of the internet and/or other digital technologies” 2 and it can have real and adverse impact on one’s emotional and psychological wellness.
With technology, bullying can now go on 24/7 since it does not necessarily have to occur face-to-face. Your child can be bullied by someone else even within the safe premises of your home.
Tracking the cyber bully may also be like searching for a needle in a haystack because he or she can remain anonymous or hide within the mass of internet users. Hence, before your child starts suffering from any severe consequences, educating your child about cyber bullying is an important prevention measure you can adopt.
If you do not know where or how to start, fret not!
Here are some examples of how cyber bullying can look like:
Harassment usually involves the bully sending offensive and threatening messages via instant messaging, SMS or any other forms of communication to his or her target. Multiple people may even gang up to send thousands of messages to the victim at once.
Imagine receiving repeated and unpleasant messages every hour, every day. Sometimes, such virtual harassment may even escalate into offline actions that may put the victim’s safety at risk.
Impersonation is when someone creates a fake profile in another person’s name or hacking into another person’s account. The cyber bully pretends to be his or her victim online and tarnishes the victim’s reputation.
The bully may go on to disseminate messages that may provoke internet users to attack the victim. The cyber bully may also share real information like humiliating photographs or contact details that the victim does not want others to know about.
Kids will be kids – they argue over some small matter and make up with each other after a period of time. But sometimes the anger can build up within individuals and a small argument can sometimes escalate into a case of cyber bullying when things become extremely heated.
Flame wars, which involve the repeated exchanges of “angry, rude, or obscene [electronic] messages” between individuals, may eventually break out 3. Often, such online fights that take place in more public spaces (e.g. online forums) also draw in many people who may not be directly involved in the argument and even those who are trying to lend a hand in resolving the issue.
Denigration is an attempt to damage the victim’s reputation or ruin the friendships that he or she has by spreading unfounded gossip or rumours online. In more ‘sophisticated’ cases, blogs, online polls, discussion groups etc. may even be set up by the cyber bully to publish altered or skewed content that ridicules or humiliates the victim.
Gathering a bunch of friends in the virtual space for online group activities such as group conversations and multiplayer games is extremely easy these days. Exclusion is intentionally excluding or singling someone out from these virtual groups.
While this act may seem not to have as much of a direct impact on victims, it constitutes as a form of cyber bullying and can evolve into something worse. More often than not, members of the virtual groups may even organise an ‘online operation’ to taunt the victim together.
Friends often share secrets which they promise to keep for each other. But when the friendship turns sour, the promise can easily be broken and outing may occur. Outing is a form of cyber bullying in which the cyber bully uses technological means to publicly “[share] private information without permission with the intent to hurt” the victim 4.
The cyber bully may employ methods to trick his or her victim into believing that “they are speaking in confidence with a close friend so that they share sensitive information” such as secrets or humiliating information 5.
Once the cyber bully has obtained the information, he or she will use it against the victim by publicly disseminating it to others, “in an attempt to shame the victim” 5. The two forms of cyber bullying – outing and trickery – often go hand-in-hand.
8. Cyber Stalking
Cyber stalking is a form of harassment. Victims usually receive threatening and disparaging electronic messages from cyber bullies. Such messages are extremely intimidating and tend to instil deep fear in victims. Victims may often start to believe that “the intimidator can move offline and harm them physically,” causing them to be overly suspicious of their surroundings as well 6.
Cyber bullying is an issue that should not be taken lightly because falling prey to it can lead to unthinkable consequences. While some victims may be able to successfully recover from his or her sufferings, there are also others who suffer in silence and choose to take their own lives to end the pain.
Tips for parents
- Be aware of the different forms of cyber bullying and educate your child about it. Sometimes, what is even more worrying about cyber bullying is that your child may not even realise that he or she is being cyber bullied.
- Use the list above as a useful tool to help you effectively detect potential cases of cyber bullying when your child share with you about his or her online activities. If your child shows visible signs of being distressed, ask him or her to look through the list of different forms of cyber bullying to identify a possible source of tension.
- Tai, J. (2014, July 14). 1 in 4 secondary school students ‘admit to cyber bullying’. The Straits Times.
- Dilmaç, B. & Aydoğan, D. (2010, July). Values as a Predictor of Cyber-bullying Among Secondary School Students. International Journal of Social Sciences, 5(3), p.185.
- Cyberbullying Research Center. Glossary.
- Kelly Warner Law PLLC. (2012, March 8). Cyberbullying Laws
- Leaf Group Ltd. Different Types of Cyber Crime
- Webster, C. (2011, September). Cyberstalking
- Kaspersky Lab. (2015, October 27). 10 Forms of Cyberbullying