Why Cyber Bullying Has Become Such a Problem

It takes a certain kind of child to bully another child. And it takes a certain kind of contempt and disregard for the victim's rights to be able to treat a fellow classmate with cruelty. But at least the traditional bully is relatively easy to identify. A traditional bully draws from a fairly consistent set of bullying methods. He will physically or verbally attack his victim, use relational aggression, or extort.

Researchers have studied and pinpointed the constellations of behaviors a traditional bully will employ to bully others. Researchers know the common characteristics of bully children, and they are starting to understand how to intervene and stop the cycle of traditional bullying.

The study of cyber bullying, on the other hand, is in its infancy. This is because researchers are just beginning to understand the full scope of the problem, and because technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, researchers are not able to keep up with the types of bullying it unleashes.

Cyber bullying is not as easy to identify as traditional bullying. In the impersonal and one-dimensional world of the Internet, it can be tough to read the nuances of online communication. For example: you might read an instant message between your son and his friend that appears to be hostile. When you question your son about it, he laughs and says they talk like that online all the time, and that it's just a joke.

Or you might find your daughter in tears over an e-mail her friend sent. When you read the e-mail, you can't figure out what your daughter is upset about. Even after you ask for clarification, you are still confused. With online communication, kidding around can be mistaken for bullying, and bullying can be so subtle that it is overlooked or misunderstood by parents.

Fact

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the average eight- to 18-year-old spends over an hour a day on the computer and spends a total of six hours and 21 minutes exposed to media of some sort (television, radio, movies, video games, etc).

How, Who, and Why

Technology is a normal part of your child's life; she doesn't know any different. She doesn't recall the days before cell phones and BlackBerrys, laptops and wireless routers, social networking sites, and personal e-mail accounts. Your child has grown up in a technological world that is making rapid advances and introducing so many new gizmos and gadgets that even technophiles have trouble keeping up. Is it any wonder that parents (who didn't grow up with a dizzying array of electronic communication devices) are often unsure how to monitor and police the use of devices that they don't fully understand?

It is a known fact that some kids who bully in person also bully online. But it is also known that kids who would never bully in person will do so online — mainly because of the anonymity. And kids who are victims of in-person bullying will sometimes bully online.

The reasons kids cyber bully are too numerous to count. But some of the more common reasons are that it's a way to continue bullying that began as in-person bullying; it can happen as a result of a fight or falling out; a bullied child can seek revenge through online means; a child might enjoy hurting and scaring other kids; a tween or teen might use the Internet to carry out relational aggression; or a kid or group of kids might cyber bully for fun and entertainment — which would be the online equivalent of the old-fashioned prank phone call.

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