What is Bullying?
Bullying is a serious problem for the young people who are bullied, for those who bully, for those who are bystanders and for everyone in the communities in which they live. Bullying behaviour negatively affects all children and is a significant obstacle to their healthy social, emotional, physical and educational growth and development.
Bullying among young people is understood as repeated negative actions committed by one or more youth against another.
The actions may be of a physical, verbal, emotional or sexual nature or may span a multitude of behaviours. These include teasing, name calling, taunting, threatening, exclusion, ostracism, extortion, harassment, manipulating friendships and physical violence. Implicit is the imbalance in real or perceived power between bully and victim. In addition, while boys typically engage in direct bullying methods, girls who bully are more apt to utilize these more subtle indirect strategies, such as spreading rumours and enforcing social isolation.
Whether bullying is direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is that the physical or psychological intimidation occurs repeatedly over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.
Bullying is learned and reinforced throughout society - in the community, in the social group, at home, in school - wherever youth are active. According to the research of Dr. Debra Peplar and Dr. Wendy Craig from the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, "Children who bully others have learned that aggressive behaviour is an efficient means of gaining status, power and control."
As young people embrace the Internet and other mobile communication technologies, bullying has manifested itself in a new and potentially more dangerous way - through cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can generally be defined as sending or posting harmful or malicious messages or images through e-mail, instant messages, cell phones and websites. It is emerging as one of the more challenging issues facing educators, since it has a direct impact on students but often occurs away from school property.
Examples of cyber bullying include:
- Sending cruel, vicious and sometimes threatening messages,
- Creating web sites that contain stories, cartoons, pictures and jokes ridiculing others,
- Posting pictures of classmates online with intent to embarrass them,
- Breaking into an e-mail account and sending vicious or embarrassing material to others,
- Engaging in IM (instant messaging) to trick another person into revealing sensitive or personal information and forwarding that information to others, and
- Taking a picture of a person using a digital phone camera and sending that picture electronically to others without consent.
Social Networking Sites
Most teenagers visit websites to communicate with friends and meet new people. The danger lies in that the Internet is vast, public and constantly expanding. If students have not developed critical thinking skills, are unsupervised or create websites that are not monitored, they can be at risk of unknowingly communicating with predators, spammers or pornographers.
As such sites proliferate, students should be warned not to post identifying information to the site and never to meet someone in person they have met through the site unless an adult accompanies them. And parents should conduct frequent reviews of the site to ensure that identifying information or pictures have not been posted.
If you are the victim of a cyber bully
- Don't reply to messages from cyber bullies.
- Tell an adult you know and trust. Just as with any other kind of bullying, ignoring it often leads to escalation.
- If the bullying is occurring through text messaging, use call display or dial *69 to identify the phone number and have it tracked through your cell phone/pager service provider.
- Instant messages (e.g. yahoo instant messenger, Microsoft Messenger) are best handled by blocking messages from certain senders.
- Bullies are likely to register for an anonymous e-mail account such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail using a fake name. If you receive threatening e-mail messages, instruct your e-mail program to block messages from that address. Then inform your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- If physical threats are made or the bullying escalates, inform your local police.
- Do not erase or delete messages from cyber bullies. You don't have to read them, but keep them as evidence. You may get similar messages from other accounts. The police, your ISP and/or your telephone company can use these messages to help you.
- If necessary, get a new phone number, account or e-mail address and give it out to only one person at a time.
Suggestions for Parents
Make sure your children understand how vast and public the Internet is. Remind them that anything they post or send in a message is virtually available to be seen or read by anyone in the world. Talk to your children about cyber bullying. Make sure they understand what it is. Let then know that cyber bullying is no less serious and unacceptable than other forms of bullying. Set up the family computer in an open, common area so that you can monitor what your child is sending and receiving. Inform your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone service provider of any abuse. Although it can take a lot of time and effort to get Providers to respond and deal with your complaints about cyber bullying, it is necessary in order to try to stop it from re-occurring. Purchase software that can help track activity. There are parental controls that filter both IM and chat rooms.
Suggestions for Schools
As with other forms of physical or emotional bullying, awareness and education are the keys to prevention of cyber bullying. It is often a very harmful, difficult and time consuming challenge to deal with the effects of cyber bullying after it has occurred.
- Amend your school's anti-bullying policies to include text messaging, cell phone use and online bullying.
- Educate teachers, students and parents about cyber bullying. Write a short article for your next school newsletter; address the issue during Curriculum Night; add a section to your website; update your Parent Handbook; address it at your next School Council meeting.
- Make sure parents know who to contact at the school if there is a problem.
- Never allow a known incident of bullying to pass unchallenged and not deal with it.
Encouraging students to be aware of, report and intervene when cyber bullying occurs will help to ease the escalation of this new form of abuse.
With contributions from:
Kidproof Child Safety
National Association of Elementary School Principals
Ontario Provincial Police
Information and Computing Technology - Acceptable Use Guidelines for Students: Provides guidelines and defines responsibilities for the safe and acceptable use of the computing and information technology facilities and resources in the SCDSB.
Bullying: We Can All Help Stop It - A Guide for Parents of Elementary and Secondary Students
Safe and Healthy Schools
Canadian Red Cross - Violence, Bullying and Abuse Prevention
Information for parents, teachers, and students on bullying prevention, abuse prevention, and healthy relationships.