Sometimes, the inappropriate content is a website with pornographic content or hate speech. Other times, the inappropriate content is a result of individuals who virtually make hateful or hurtful comments towards specific individuals, some of whom are students. When the hateful and hurtful remarks become hostile and repeated, it is often referred to as "cyber bullying."
Bullying existed long before modern technologies developed. But, the ability to bully someone electronically has seemed to increase the occurrences and severity of bullying. "Online, people can feel invisible and capable of doing things they normally wouldn't do in person or in public - things that they know might be wrong" (www1.cyfernet.org/conffav/05-09-Varnadoe-Cyberbully-WS.ppt).
Located below are graphs, taken from the Cyberbullying Research Center (http://www.cyberbullying.us/research.php), that show how common cyber bullying incidents have become. The graphs represent a visual display of research regarding the current number cyber bullying victims and the current number of cyber bullying occurrences.
When speaking about cyber bullying versus traditional bullying in the video below, Bill Modzeleski, the Director of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools for the US Department of Education, said "Cyberspace provides us with cover, it provides us with anonymity, it provides us the ability to research many, many, many more people. I think those two issues are the significant issues between bullying, traditional bullying where I have to look at you square in the eye and where basically I have to be part of the bullying equation where I have to be stronger than you to have that doesn't always have to be the case with cyber. We have kind of changed the equation because now, because of the anonymity of the internet and other forms of cyberspace I can bully almost anyone. I can name call. I can rumor monger."
"As the Internet becomes an indispensable tool for everyday life, it is more important than ever to dust off the concept of "citizenship" and "ethics" and apply it to the online world" (www1.cyfernet.org/conffav/05-09-Varnadoe-Cyberbully-WS.ppt). First, parents must educate their children on appropriate behavior and also teach their children what to do if they become involved in a cyber bullying incident. Second, teachers and administrators must be aware of the problem and be able to take actions that will both teach their student how to protect themselves and how to avoid being a victim or perpetrator of cyber bullying. After all, as Ernie Allen, President & CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said "The reality is school administrators, schools systems, are liable to all kinds of behavior in their schools....We hope that administrators will recognize and realize that when kids are online, their in public and there are risks, and you should prepare for the kinds of risks that kids will face in your school online, just as you would any other sort of risk. That means having appropriate policies in place, training teachers and staff about those policies, communicating clearly in words and language that parents and kids understand what acceptable use is." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmjoDK0LZwI&feature=related)
Suggestions for policies and/or information for training is readily available. For example, the following sites are all examples of places where schools and/or parents could find information to help.
- Tips to teach children acceptable behavior online
- Be CyberSmart! Cyber Ethics and Bullying
- Netsmartz Workshop
- Safety Security Ethics
- Digital Citizenship and Creative Content-A Teacher's Guide