By Sara Rowe & Bonnie Burton
Have you had to deal with bullying at your school? Maybe you have been the target of the “mean girls” of your class who think that making fun of you is the highlight of their day. Or maybe you have been bullying other girls yourself without even realizing it. After all, the line between gossiping and bullying becomes thinner when gossip is posted for thousands to see on the internet.
Bullying between girls can be extra hard to deal with, because a lot of times the damage is done by words instead of fists. And these days, this is even easier to do because of all the electronic gizmos we have at our disposal. Now there is an entire new kind of bullying known as cyber bullying, which can be done without the girl doing the bullying even having to come near you. Some of it can be pretty scary. You might have even seen news stories lately about the destructive effects of bullying using cell phones and the internet.
How much is this really happening? A survey done by i-SAFE found that 42% of kids report that they have been harassed while online and 53% said that they have written something mean to another person on the internet. Those are some scary stats.
This excerpt taken from the book Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton explains what cyber bullying is and how you can protect yourself:
Thanks to the Internet and cell phones, it’s a brave new wired world…of vindictive girls lurking out in cyberspace. The web is the perfect place for people to unleash their meanness because it is fast, easy, public and potentially anonymous. In the old days, girls used journals called slam books, in which they would write what they hated about each other and pass it around; today they simply post their comments on Myspace or Facebook pages for all the world to see.
How It Works
The ways to cyber bully are endless. People can send degrading emails, post mean comments on someone’s social networking page, and even forward a personal confession from a trusting confidant to the entire 10th grade. Some girls even make fake profiles or URL pages solely to tease, mock, and humiliate another person.
Another form of cyber abuse is identity theft. Although another girl can’t use your credit card number to charge a year’s worth of clothes (because presumably you don’t have a credit card yet), she can take your contact info and photo (or, worse, Photoshop your head onto a naked girl’s body) and sign you up for a free trial of an online dating service. Before you know it, your inbox had been inundated with creepy emails and porn spam. Or, if someone knows your IM screen name and password, she can secretly log on pretending to be you and pick fights with other girls or proposition guys.
Why She Does It
It’s way easier to say mean stuff online than to someone’s face, so girls who are unable to communicate maturely will go for your throat by going to the keyboard. And it’s hard for them to get caught because most parents don’t understand online culture and don’t see what’s happening. Cyber abuse can also be seen as a game or a group activity. Some uninspired girls think it’s entertaining to get together and spend an evening ripping apart another girl online.
Why It Sucks
It sucks mainly because it is so public and spreads so fast. It used to be that a kid could pass a mean note around class, and 20 or 30 people would eventually know what it said. With cyberspace, a click of a button means thousands or even millions of people instantly have dirt on you. The anonymity factor only makes it worse because when you don’t know who is behind such cruelty, you become paranoid about why someone would say such awful things and find yourself wondering how to protect or defend yourself.
What You Can Do
Unless you think you might be in danger, the best thing to do is to not do anything. Getting into a catty cyberwar will only make things worse and give her the satisfaction that she upset you. Plus, she’ll have evidence that you participated in the problem, should you ever want to report her.
#Block or delete the person from your profile, IM buddy list, and blog.
#Don’t install applications on social networking sites that allow people to post anonymous stuff on your page.
#Contact customer support for the site and get them to locate and shut down the offenders.
#If the abuse is taking place on campus, let your school know. Lots of schools are beginning to have policies against cyber abuse.
#Protect your password- Do not use the same password for every site. If someone breaks into any of your accounts, change your password ASAP (or delete your account and create a new one, if possible). Even if no one breaks in, make a habit of changing your passwords regularly to prevent hackers from gaining access. Do not share or write down passwords.
#If it gets really bad, take legal action.
Maybe someone posts a comment on your blog telling you to expect a beatdown if you show your face at school the next day. Or you get emailed a death threat. Cyber abuse is actually kind of scary when taken to this level. You can’t simply ignore or delete a message that challenges your personal safety. This is serious stuff. You’ve got to tell your parents, and you may even want to go to the police.
In situations like this, it’s important to keep proof of all interactions. Print out copies of any emails, profile comments, instant messages, and/or text messages to show as evidence. (Even though you may want to hit the Delete key the second you get a nasty note, don’t. Save the message instead.) If someone calls you and leaves a threatening message, save it. Then, record it onto your computer if you have a program that allows you to do that. The more proof you have the easier it is for the police to take action. Law enforcement agencies are surprisingly savvy when it comes to cyber crime and harassment, but you need to help them as much as you can.
To read more about how to deal with bullying, see Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton.