Cyberbullying: No Online Laughing Matter

Word cloud for cyberbullying
My business was nearly ruined by a cyberbully. And that was before "cyberbullying" became trendy.

About 10 years ago, an individual began a very ugly attack on me personally and professionally out of a need to "get even" for a perceived wrong.  At the time, I didn't realize that this person had a history of "old school" bullying, stalking and harassment, but this appeared to be the first time technology was the weapon of choice.  The perpetrator used all sorts of tricks and tools to discredit me, including hijacking my business website, substituting a different, damaging site in its place, and creating new linked sites that not only attacked me for my position as an expert and coach on character and social skills, but also spread lies about my abilities and track record as a mom to my young children.

It was horrible...and didn't let up for months. I'd get the inflammatory sites taken down, just to have new ones pop up almost immediately. I lost sleep, couldn't eat, and my business suffered. I had to hire a private investigator, and, even get the FBI involved at one point because this individual harassing me happened to be a trained computer security expert.

The cyberbullying and harassment eventually ended, but the resulting damage couldn't be undone. (more…)

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Students create fake online identities to bully peers

This was the title of an article in Education Week that I stumbled upon today.  I looked at it in shock, not because I couldn't believe it was happening, but more because I had a sort of "No kidding, duh!" reaction to it.

Does it surprise you that kids are doing this? It shouldn't.  It's one of the unintended consequences of enacting laws to deal with cyber bullying and online harassment.  The kids who are doing the bullying and harassing are trying to cover up who is doing it because they want to evade laws and policies that forbid and punish this kind of behavior.

What we are seeing then, is the problem being compounded. Not only is it bad enough that students are doing the bullying -- online or off, -- now we add sneakiness and subterfuge to the list of "bad behavior."

Nearly two years ago, I called attention to the problems with isolating cyber bullying as a separate "thing" from off-line bullying, something that somehow needed a different solution.  While there are some things that make cyber bullying somewhat unique, the basic root cause of why people bully and harass online is the same as what drives off-line behavior (and, as a matter of fact, frequently online bullying LEADS to offline, in person bullying as well!)

The people who bully lack the sensitivity, compassion and consideration that allows them to understand that treating others like this is just plain wrong.  Before you go off telling me I'm wrong, let me qualify this: I'm not saying that bullies don't know it's wrong when they bully; I'm saying they lack the basic character development that allows them to care.

Further, bullying is about power. It's about a zero-sum game that says, "Hey, in order for me to be a bigger deal, I have to make you a lesser deal."  If I write you a hurtful note on paper and stuff it in your locker, I may hurt you, but you and I are the only ones to know.  If I do it on the Internet, though, a whole "universe" can know.

Now, take the fake id action and you see that these students will use the anonymity of the Internet to do their damage without any obvious way of being held accountable for their actions. I say "obvious," because kids don't usually realize how traceable the Internet really is. I myself (and I'm not a cyber-expert by any means) was able to track down (more…)

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Worry: increasing “popularity” of bullycide?

Yesterday afternoon, when I wrote the post about Cassidy Andel, I thought we only had 30 bullying suicides that we knew of..that had been documented. This morning already it appears we have one more.  Just as it was last Spring, it's feeling like "Another Day, Another Bullying Death."

But this latest rash of deaths has me even more worried.  It appears that there are not only more of them, but they are coming in clusters. Maybe it's because we are more sensitive to the issue and it's more on the forefront of our minds, but I'm concerned we are starting to see this epidemic take on a different trend...

And that is, that the kids see these bullying suicides and think "Hey, that's an easy way out for me. No one is doing anything to help me anyway, so this is a way to make the pain stop."


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