Bullying is no longer just physical. The introduction of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and new communication tools such as text messaging and instant messaging has brought a new dimension to child protection issues and in particular bullying. These technologies are being abuse and used by children and young people to harass, intimidate and annoy on another. These can range from harmless to quite damaging and upsetting. There have been cases of teenagers committing suicide from being cyber bullied. The majority of the time these children do not seek help and so the problem continues to increase to the point where it becomes unbearable. Cyber bullying can be psychologically damaging and can take the form of nasty messages, emails and saying hurtful things on message boards, and even pretending to be someone else and/or accessing someone else’s account and causing trouble. When this behaviour is intense and repeated constantly, this is classified as bullying.
According to the Office for Internet Safety, Ireland, there are many different ways technology can be used for cyber bullying. This includes personal intimidation, impersonation, exclusion, personal humiliation, and false reporting. The reason why many children and teenagers do not get help is because they feel threatened that the bully will hurt them further if they do, and this can be particularly prominent throughout school environments. These technologies are spaces for young people to express themselves without the influence of adults, therefore adults and teachers can be unaware of cyber bullying.
Cyber Bullying can be stopped. Children and teenagers need to be made aware of cyber bullying and to tell an adult when they see it happening or if they get bullied themselves. It is imperative that the bullies be stopped. Teenage victims of cyber bullying in particular should be able to express their concerns with anyone who can do something about the issue. As cyber bullying does not just occur in school environments, parents need to be aware of their child’s activity on the internet and need to monitor signs of any bullying that may be occurring and help to stop it and prevent it for good.
Office for Internet Safety (2008). Get with it. Brunswick Press, Dublin.