There's a new type of bully in America's schools: the cyber bully. A cyber bully doesn't pick fist fights in the parking lot after school; rather they operate by sending deliberately hurtful messages to others on a computer or cell phone. Are you someone who has been bullied or perhaps is guilty of bullying others?
What Is a Cyber Bully?
The cyber bully is someone who does any of the following things:
- Sending threatening email messages to others
- Flaming others in an instant messaging session
- Creating a website in order to spread gossip and embarrass others
- Forwarding private emails, videos or photos to others with the intent to embarrass someone
- Harassing someone by repeatedly sending nasty emails or texting someone's cell phone with inflammatory or threatening language
According to National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of kids have admitted being bullied by others either while online or on their cell phones in the last year. StompOutBullying.org reports that 53 percent of kids have admitted to bullying others on the Internet or sending mean text messages to other kid's cell phones.
Interview on Bullying
In order to understand what makes a bully tick, we interviewed an expert on the subject- Dr. Gilda Carle. Here is what she had to say about bullies, and how teens and their parents can deal with them effectively.
LTK: Why do people bully others?
Dr. Gilda: People become bullies because they don't feel good enough about themselves. They erroneously believe that if they squash someone, it will elevate their own stature.
LTK: What are some common characteristics of bullies?
Dr. Gilda: They seek victims who don't fight back, people who will readily accept the status of "victim" and appear to be weak. Bullies don't need PhD's in bullying to know who to pick on. Anyone who defends him or herself, or who will give the bully a hard time will be avoided.
LTK: How can teens deal with cyber bullies and computer bullies that send text messages or instant messages?
Dr. Gilda: You can't fight someone when you don't know who he or she is. You have to seek help from the authorities: cops, school officials, the phone company, people who know how to police the net and have the authority to prosecute abuse.
LTK: What if the bully wants to stop but doesn't know how?
Dr. Gilda: The bully never wants to lose face in front of his or her friends, so even if they want to stop, it is unlikely that they will - without your help. If you sense the bully is really an OK person, get them on the side, away from their audience and talk to them candidly. Exchange your honest feelings in private with each other. Work out a plan for the bully to save face, and for you not to appear like the victim in this.
LTK: What can a teen do to make the bully stop?
Dr. Gilda: Teens have three choices:
- Avoid the bully
- Fight the bully
- Walk away with power and dignity
If you avoid the bully, you will constantly be in fear. If you fight the bully, you will get into trouble. If you walk away with power and dignity- and also tell the person you won't be intimidated by his or her actions, and keep your power, there is a chance the bully will recognize that you won't be a victim. A bully can't be a persecutor without having a victim.
LTK: What can a parent do for a child that is being bullied?
Dr. Gilda: Discuss the three choices above with your teen. Examine the pros and cons of each. Role-play each possible scenario. If all else fails, get reinforcements from the school, the cops, or anyone else with authority. Rules of behavior modification dictate that behaviors that are not reinforced become extinguished. Let your child know that if he or she stands tall in their words, body language, and tone of voice, the bully will probably lose interest.
Tips to Stop the Cyber Bully
There are several things that you can do to stop a cyber bully right in their tracks:
- Never give out personal information online, such as your real name, address, phone, or school name
- Never share your passwords with anyone, even a close friend
- Never respond to harassing emails
- Don't send your picture to individuals you don't know on the Internet
- Remember- the Internet isn't a private place. Anything you say, or pictures that you share, can be sent all over the Internet to anyone, everywhere
- Save any suspected emails or text messages- you may need them as evidence later if the situation escalates
If you are a victim of cyber or a computer bully you have several options to get help. First, go to a trusted adult for help before the situation escalates. A teacher, guidance counselor, or parent is your first line of defense to end harassment. Don't give up until someone agrees to help you. If you are being bullied through your Instant Messaging system, block the ID of the person or persons harassing you. If it is happening in a chat room, notify the moderator.
Finally, if someone threatens you with harm, call the police. You have the right to live in peace without the threat of violence.
About Dr. Gilda Carle
DR. GILDA CARLE was the Love Doc for MTV Online, she has written many magazine columns in popular teen magazines, Teen People calls her "our fave know-it-all," she is on the Advisory Board at CosmoGIRL!, she is an author of teen books, including, "Teen Talk with Dr. Gilda," she has a teen website on Dr. Gilda.com, she has done hundreds of interventions on national TV between teens and their parents, and she speaks to teens and parent groups throughout the country. She is also founder of the video blog, GildaVision, on Dr.Gilda.com, which responds to teens' and parents' concerns.