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Bullying has evolved, adopted technology to increase power

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Have you ever wondered why bullying seems more destructive and dangerous today? Technology is great when used correctly, and a terrible power when utilized to cause harm. In the world of bullying and peer victimization, the bullies have upgraded to technology through cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying is bullying through any electronic media. In today’s youth this is most prevalent as bullying via instant messaging (IMing), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images send to a cellular phone. Cyber bullying, while acting on the same premise as traditional bullying: an imbalance of power, aggression, and repeated negative actions, is much more damaging. This increased power to harm stems from its unique characteristics:

Intimidation through Anonymity

When I was a kid the bully was well known. As a victim I knew my tormentor and could avoid him in most cases. When a child is being Cyber-bullied this is not possible. Cyber bullies often rely on the anonymity of the internet to remain hidden and out of reach of the authorities. When they do so they also increase the stress for the victim. Imagine going to school each day wondering who it was that was stalking you online. The stress of not knowing who to avoid and how to avoid giving them more “ammunition” is often worse than any verbal or physical exchange. Bullies today understand this and use this new weapon to bring increased harm to their victims.

Opportunity through Accessibility

Traditional bullying, the bullying that many adults and parents remember, happens in very specific locations and at relatively limited times. Traditional ways of bullying terrorize the victim at school, on the bus, or walking to or from school. Through the power of instant communications and the internet there have become fewer and fewer safe places or times for the victims. The cyber bully can reach their victim at anytime, anywhere, and wreak havoc without having direct personal access.

Bullying through Parental Involvement

When it is discovered that a child is bullying another they can be punished. In the end the bully feels the effects of the bullying behavior and its consequences. This is not true of cyber-bullying. A child who is the victim of cyber bullying often do not report it because they are afraid of being the one “punished”. The most common adult response to cyber bullying is to take away the victim’s access to the “offending technology” to protect them from the cyber-bully. The flaw in this approach is that it gives the cyber-bully another layer of power over the victim, another way to isolate them from any form of help from friends.

When we discover that a child is being cyber-bullied we must do everything we can to support the victim and find the bully. Proper response to cyber-bullying involves discussion, investigation and monitoring. When we take the correct steps we help the victim and reduce the power of the cyber-bully without further “damage” to the victim. When you take power away from the cyber-bully you may just be saving a life!

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