Cyberbullying

This post includes content adapted from onguardonline.gov.

Cyberbullying is bullying or harassment that happens online. It can happen in an email, a text message, a game, or on a social networking site. It might involve spreading rumors or images posted on someone’s profile or passed around for others to see, or creating a group or page to make a person feel left out.

There are three main types of cyberbullying:

  • Flaming: Flaming is the posting of derogatory remarks on someone else’s webpage or IMing nasty remarks to someone. Mostly, it’s online fights filled with bad language. The best way to deal with flaming is to ignore it. Take down the post or block the person on IM. If you fight back, you’re engaging in a flaming war and are just as guilty as the person who flamed you. Flaming wars can escalate into real-life, physical fights, which nobody wants.
  • Impersonation: Impersonation is when a person logs into someone else’s account or creates a fake account with another person’s information and pictures, and sends out messages pretending to be that user. Guess what? This is a form of identity theft and it is a federal crime! Generally it’s prosecuted as a Class C Felony, which can bring with it 2-8 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines depending on the harm inflicted by assuming another person’s identity.
  • Bad Mouthing: This can include creating profiles that make fun of another person, erecting blogs that rate people in your class or creating home pages that make fun of others. Authorities can take this very seriously. There are many documented cases of mean comments or even excessive profanity on Twitter and Facebook leading to expulsion from school. Don’t bad mouth your teachers, your classmates, or anyone else. Treat what you post on social networks as public, and know that you will get caught and have to pay the consequences.

What to do about it

  • Don’t respond to the bully; they’re looking for a reaction.
  • Block or delete the bully. Adjust your privacy settings as necessary.
  • Save evidence of the bullying and report it to the appropriate website’s support team as soon as possible.
  • If you witness someone else being bullied, report it!

Real-world examples:

Cyberbullying can be a life-or-death situation. Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl, became friends with a boy, Josh Evans, on MySpace. They became friends, but one day, he changed, and he started saying that she wasn’t very nice to her friends. That snowballed into public bulletins saying she was a slut and fat. On October 16, 2006, her parents found her hanging in her closet. Josh Evans never existed; an ex-best friend’s mother created the account, and Megan Meier didn’t live to see her fourteenth birthday. To learn more about Megan Meier, visit the Megan Meier Foundation: http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org.

For more: http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0028-cyberbullying

Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after finding out that his roommate, Dharun Ravi, used a webcam to stream Tyler kissing another man. Ravi also invited his Twitter followers to view it. This invasion of privacy and cruelty led to Clementi’s death. To learn more about Tyler Clementi, visit the Tyler Clementi Foundation: thetylerclementifoundation.org.