Bullying is a real part, if rather sad fact, of life. I always worry over my 2 second graders and what is going on in the school yard where the traditional bullying usually happens
And then there is the new form of bullying – cyber bullying – which is more sinister and destructive. Bullying leads to physical as well as psychological damage. In the traditional bullying situation, depression is common among the victims but also the bully victims (“those who both dish it out and take it”) and even the bullies themselves. According to researchers, this type of bullying peaks at middle school.
Cyber bullying, on the other hand, is more “toxic”, according to Dr. Jorg Srabstein, medical director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at Children’s National Medical Center. This is because the burden of depression, which is rather high, falls largely on the victim alone. To illustrate the difference between traditional and cyber bullying, Srabstein gives us the following example:
Cyber bullying has been linked to cases of suicide and murder.
How common is cyber bullying?
The School-Aged Children 2005 Survey showed a more than 50% prevalence of verbal bullying (e.g. name-calling). Relational bullying, e.g. isolation from peers, are also common (about 50%). About 20% of school children have had been bullied physically and 14% experience cyber bullying.
In an anonymous, online survey of 1454 teens aged 12 to 17:
Online bullying was associated with increased distress, as well as with in-school bullying, with 85 percent of respondents who reported at least one online incident also reporting being bullied in school. Most of the bullied teens did not tell their parents about the online incidents. They felt the need to deal with the problem on their own and were fearful of parental restrictions on internet use.
Recent statistics showed that Americans spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook each day. These so-called social medial platforms, led by Facebook, followed by My Space and Friendster are the most common media for cyber abuse. One site is especially is cause for concern. The relatively new formspring.me allows anonymously virtually uncensored comments and remarks such as:
A third of formspring users are under 17.
Government agencies are trying to keep up with technological developments in order to protect those who are online, especially the minors. In August of this year, Facebook, in cooperation with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), launched a new safety feature in its site, basically a panic button called ClickCEOP. According to CEOP chief Jim Gamble:
“By adding this application, Facebook users will have direct access to all the services that sit behind our ClickCEOP button which should provide reassurance to every parent with teenagers on the site. We know from speaking to offenders that a visible deterrent could protect young people.”
The Internet is here to stay and cyber bullying will continue. It is up to us, parents, as well as policymakers, to check on what is going in our children’s cyber lives.