Taking Aim At Cyberbullying

-Diane Carver

Think quick – what’s the most prevalent danger facing your students on the
Internet today?

If your thoughts immediately turned to sexual predators, then you may be
in for a surprise. According to surveys of high school students, educators
and parents conducted in Canada, the United
States and the United Kingdom, one in five middle school and
high school students report being a victim of cyberbullying. 1 2 3

The prevalence of Internet use among young people has opened up a new stomping
ground for the playground bully, a playground where there are no teachers
and few adults to help draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable
behavior. The ease with which most teenagers use technology like cell phones
and computers makes it far too easy for one child with a grudge to turn life
into a living hell for another student.

What Is Cyberbullying?

“I was online one night talking with friends when I got an IM from someone
I didn’t know. It said they saw me leaving the library at 2 o’clock, and
described what I was wearing. Then they logged off. It really creeped
me out.”

–        Nicole, 19

“Some girl thought her boyfriend liked me so she pretended to be me and
gave my phone number to a bunch of guys on a chat line. I got like 40 phone
calls all day long from complete strangers. And I couldn’t be mad at THEM
– they thought I asked them to call.”

–        Emilee, 15

“When I broke up with my girlfriend, she gave the address of my deadjournal (a
popular alternative blog site among teens ) to her new boyfriend and a
bunch of his friends. They started spamming the comments with death threats
and calling me a fag and other stuff. It got so bad I had to move it and
get another name there.

–        John, 16

In a nutshell, cyberbullying is the use of email, text messaging, web sites,
discussion forums and other technological means of communication to intentionally
hurt, defame or intimidate another. Any of the following may be used to bully
another via cyberspace:

  • Sending threatening, intimidating or derogatory emails, instant messages
    or phone text messages
  • Posting derogatory comments about classmates on an internet bulletin
  • Using comments to a classmate’s blog to make fun of them and encouraging
    others to join in
  • Creating a web page or web site devoted to insulting another classmate
    or classmates
  • Posting personal information about another student on a public web site,
    or sharing it via cell phone or email
  • Using another student’s email address or IM name to send messages that
    make the student look bad or will get them into trouble
  • Posting embarrassing photos of another on a web site for others to view

What Fuels Cyberbullying?

Cyber bullies are motivated by the same things that motivate their offline
counterparts – bullying gives them power over the victim. Cyber bullying
also carries fewer consequences and risks for the bullies. They can hide
behind the anonymity of a screen name or online persona. They can carry out
their attacks from the privacy of their own bedroom or cell phone. The risk
of being caught is slight – and the havoc that can be caused is enormous.

Because size and physical strength aren’t a factor, girls are as likely
to join in the cyberbullying as boys. Girls and boys also seem to be equally
victimized by cyberbullies, except in cases where the harassment is specifically
sexual. In that case, girls are twice as likely to be victims as boys. 4

Psychologists also believe that teens are more likely to join in and engage
in cyberbullying than in real life. Because the bully doesn’t see or hear
the effects of his taunts and threats, there is less empathy. Students witnessing
an incident of real world bullying often report feeling uncomfortable about
it, or sorry for the victim. Often, when the bullying takes place online,
there’s less connection with the victim because it’s more impersonal.

What’s The Harm?

At the same time, cyberbullying can be far MORE personal to the victim.
The threats and taunts invade his personal space – his email box, his cell
phone, his own bedroom or the kitchen table. Unlike schoolyard bullying,
there is no ‘safety zone’ when you’re the victim of a cyberbully. It’s almost
impossible for the victim of a cyberbully to control the situation by walking
away from it. The effects of being virtually bullied are every bit as real
as those of being made the laughingstock in a real world situation.

What Can You Do To Stop Cyberbullying?

  1. If your school or school system isn’t already addressing the problem
    of cyber-bullying, get it on the agenda. Discuss it with the school’s guidance
    office, the principal or the department. Point them to the resources at
    the end of this article to help them understand the scope of the problem.
  2. Evaluate the problem. Get the subject out in the open. Survey the students
    to find out the extent of cyber-bullying in your classroom or school (There’s
    a good survey at that
    you can download to use. If it’s too ‘old’ for your class, use it as a
    base to create one of your own that’s easier for younger students and teens
    to understand.)
  3. Talk about cyberbullying to your class. If you’re not sure how to introduce
    the subject, you’ll find an excellent lesson plan to open the discussion
    here. It includes printable activity sheets and guided discussion suggestions.
  4. Walk the walk. Set clear guidelines for acceptable use of the internet
    in class, and clear consequences for misuse, and enforce them.
  5. Strike at the assumption of anonymity that fuels a lot of cyber-bullying.
    Explain to your class how identities of users can be tracked through IP
    addresses, email headers and other information. No one is REALLY anonymous
    on the web – there are always ways to track malicious users down. Make
    sure that your students understand that if they send email, post on a bulletin
    board, send text message or otherwise harass another student, they CAN
    be caught.
  6. Attack the notion that ‘it’s all just a prank’. Students should be aware
    that it is illegal to make threats of physical harm via email, text messaging
    or the internet, and that it may be illegal to post derogatory information
    about someone with the intent of doing them harm.
  7. Emphasize kindness and courtesy in all communications. Bring the effects
    of online bullying home in a way that students can understand. Use news
    stories about cyberbullying to open discussions with students and ask questions

How would you feel if this happened to you?

What would your mother think if she knew you were doing this?

How would you feel if you posted a web page like that, and the newspapers
reported that you did it?

  1. Make it easy for students to report cyber-bullying that they witness
    or are part of without fear of retaliation. Provide a way for them to report
    abuse anonymously. Let them know that any report made – anonymously or
    not – will be taken seriously and investigated, and that their privacy
    as a reporter will be respected.
  2. Educate parents about the seriousness of cyberbullying. Send home literature
    and suggested reading about bullying and cyberbullying to all parents.
  3. Make lessons about internet safety a part of your regular curriculum.
    Don’t stop with ‘don’t reveal personal information’, though. Make sure
    that students know the steps to take if they are being harassed, intimidated
    or targeted for ridicule through IMs, email, text messages or on web sites.

The internet opens new worlds for investigation, communication and cooperation.
Your actions in the classroom can help your students to take advantage of
all the opportunities it offers without fear of becoming a victim.

Resources for the Classroom Teacher:

Some places to get lesson plans, information and handouts regarding cyberbullying




Cyberbullying In The News

Some stories to get the discussion started in your classroom





The Children’s Charity (UK)

Putting U In The Picture – Mobile Bullying Survey 2005

Available at http://www.nch.org.uk/information/index.php?i=237

Against Children Research Center(US) – Online Victimization – A Report On
The Nation’s Youth

Available at http://www.nch.org.uk/information/index.php?i=237

3 Media
Awareness Network Young Canadians In A Wired World Survey (2001)

Against Children Research Center(US) – Online Victimization – A Report On
The Nation’s Youth

– TheCanadianTeacher.com Staff Writer (copyright 2005) news(AT)thecanadianteacher.com


5 Replies to “Taking Aim At Cyberbullying”

  1. I was so excited to discover your info on cyber bullying. I have just begun to address this problem in my classroom, as it has recently come to our attention that it has been going on among our students. I have been a teacher for many years and was not prepared to deal with this issue, as I am a relative neophyte where computers are concerned. Thanks for having current info to help us. Diana

  2. I was also excited on your cyber bullying information. I am doing a research project on bullying and its side effects and this has really helped me with my research. Thanks for having current info to help me.

    Layla Preston

  3. Cyberbullying is no different than the bullying children today deal with on a daily basis. Children can no longer feel safe and secure at their home knowing that through either phone calls or their MSN messenger, the bullying continues. In schools the pressure is worse. Children do not realize that in our country Education is a right but it is also a privilege.
    Parents need to be able to have parental controls downloaded upon purchasing computers that enable parents to watch content coming in and out on the messengers. Fact is things are being said to and from our children that most would never imagine coming out of the mouths of our “babes” or to.
    Websites are free and a means for kids to express themselves and sending and leaving messages on. For instance one that I just recently learned about that is very appealing to teens is at http://www.piczo.com. Check it out, you may find a website of your own child there as well as links to some of their friends.
    Our children need to understand that bullying hurts, not just for today or this year but some times it leaves scars that can last a life time. Parents too, unfortunately fall into a similar scenario comparing themselves to the Jones. That in itself tells your children that what you have is not good enough, rather than reminding our children of the more unfortunate people in the world and the gratefulness we should have for what we have.
    I will never forget having recently moved to Kelowna B.C., a teacher “Mr. B” telling me to help my child “fit in” and to go to Value Village and buy her some new clothes because she preferred cloth elastic waste pants vs jeans that were below the waist. And to think that was told me By a TEACHER in front of all the other parents waiting outside for their children. And we ask where kids learn bullying from?
    Society today needs to look in the mirror of their own. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect children. However we can help our children learn to appreciate what they have by not buying “fashion statement clothes but clothes that are suitable for children for school. They are there to learn. Perhaps the idea of separation of the genders is not such a bad idea.
    Talk WITH your children, not to. Keep the line of communication open. They depend on it!!

  4. I’m in the process of preparing a presentation on Cyberbullying for my colleagues (we are post graduate students in Information Technology). I am excited to work my way through this site, but could not access the ‘survey’ on your survey. Any chance you have an additional copy you could send out?

    Thank you
    Jennifer Fort

  5. Hello,

    I wanted to share some educational resources that we thought might be helpful to parents, educators and students in your learning community.

    For your information, http://www.bullying.org is a multiple award-winning Web site that was created to help people address the issues of bullying within a safe, positive international community. http://www.bullying.org is a supportive online community where people can learn that they are NOT alone in being bullied and teased, that being bullied and teased is NOT their fault and that they CAN do something positive about it. People can contribute their personal stories, poems, images, oral stories (audio files), music and even animations and movies. http://www.bullying.org also has a “Helpful Resources” section that features a huge listing of articles, books, legislation and policies, research and multimedia resources. http://www.bullying.org also has the world’s first and largest online moderated support groups for adults and youth. The Web site receives nearly one million visitors and contributors from around the world each month and is often listed as the number one “bullying” referenced Web site in the world by http://www.google.com and many other Internet search engines.

    http://www.bullying.org has been chosen for the ChildNet International Award that goes to project that make the Internet a better place for youth, as well as being a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge Award which has been called the Nobel Prize of the IT (Information Technology) world. In an interview I did on CBC Television’s “The National”, CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge referred to http://www.bullying.org as “One of the best Web sites in the world for young people”. http://www.bullying.org has been featured by other media around the world.

    Bullying.org is also the creator of http://www.cyberbullying.ca, the world’s first Web site specifically dedicated to the emerging issue of cyberbullying, in fact we have often been cited as the first to use this word and define this new behaviour.

    We would like to encourage you, your organization, and your community to participate in the sixth annual “Bullying Awareness Week” which will be held from November 16th until the 22nd, 2008. Please visit http://www.bullyingawarenessweek.org for more information.

    We have also created a national “Canada’s Caring Kids” award. Please see
    http://www.cyberbullying.ca/pdf/Canada-s_Caring_Kids_Award.pdf for more information about this initiative.

    If you have a middle or high school in your area, you can encourage them to join the Bullying.org Peer Power Youth Presenters Network. We have a research-based multimedia CD along with an accompanying script they can use to practice with and then make arrangements to come and have these older students present to your younger students. It is very powerful and effective. The cost is only $10. The main commitment is finding a teacher at the local middle or high school who will agree to work with the older students prior to their presentation at your school. Please visit http://www.bullyingawarenessweek.org and click on the “Resources” Web page link for more information.

    We are also the creators of the groundbreaking Website, http://www.bullyingcourse.com. This new educational resource offers affordable online courses and Webinars (online presentations) for parents and educators about bullying and cyberbullying.

    Here’s what http://www.bullyingcourse.com offers:

    Ö Webinars (available now): These are online multimedia presentations you can order and include in your next Professional Development Day, conference, Parent-Teacher Association meeting or community gathering. All you need is a computer, access to the Internet, a multimedia projector, projection screen, speakers and you are good to go! They can be paused, played and replayed to meet your schedule throughout the day you have ordered the presentation for.

    Ö 100 Level online non-credit courses (available now):: These are self-directed introductory courses intended for personal and professional learning and growth. There are no “classes” with fellow learners interacting at the same time. You proceed on your own pace. 100 level courses are offered on a continuous basis throughout the year. 100 level courses have no enrolment limit. 100 level courses are assessed as “Complete” or “incomplete”. A certificate is issued upon successful completion of these courses.

    Ö 200 Level online non-credit courses (in development): These courses will offer online professional course facilitators, class sizes are limited to 25 participants and involve interactive discussion and sharing forums, personal learning journals, practical case studies based on real-life stories and the option of joining the Global Anti-Bullying Network, that is available to you after your courses have been completed. 100 level courses are assessed as “Complete” or “incomplete”. A certificate is issued upon successful completion of these courses.

    Ö 300 Level online credit courses (in development): Similar to 200 level courses with greater content, with the additional option of earning academic credit.

    We have created a free brochure in PDF format that you can download that contains many ideas as to how students, teachers and parents can use http://www.bullying.org as a safe, supportive, free, non-commercial, and deeply engaging multimedia teaching and learning resource. This can be found online at:

    You can learn more about Bullying.org Canada at:

    and at:

    You can learn more about what people are saying about our work at:

    If you would like more information about my own background, please visit:

    You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to open and download this information.

    Please feel free to share this with others as you may deem appropriate.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have any questions or need further information.

    Most sincerely,

    Bill Belsey

    Bullying.org Canada

    159 Riverview Circle
    Cochrane, Alberta
    T4C 1K9

    Phone: (403) 932-1748
    e-mail: help@bullying.org

    “Where You Are NOT Alone!”

    “Always On? Always Aware!”

    “Learn to BE the Change!”

    “Prevention Through Education and Awareness”

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