Cyberbullying and What We Can Do About It
The other night I dedicated my show to the memory of Amanda Todd who is cyberbullying’s latest suicide victim.
The purpose for the show was to raise awareness about cyberbullying and to empower listeners with information that can and will prevent any more victims from cyberbullying again.
I promised to follow up the show with details and here it is. It’s a good reference point for kids and parents combating cyberbullying crime.
In case you missed it here is Amanda’s story in her own words:
The number of teenage suicides from cyberbullying is becoming pandemic. Just last year alone 3 girls in Nova Scotia committed suicide because of cyberbullies. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
During the show I touched on my own personal testimony when I was bullied as a teenager by a former ‘friend’ who had turned on me with his gang of thugs. At the time I was able to handle it with a show of bravado and that ended that.
But girls don’t necessarily have that luxury. My own daughter was bullied by a boy until I intervened and had a face to face ‘chat’ with him. Well needless to say I managed to put the fear of god in him and he gracefully disappeared.
Until the following year when he showed up again with a cowardly entrance through the back door … i.e. he texted a demeaning message to my daughter. So I asked her to text him back that I wanted to discuss his message face to face. My daughter has never heard from that jerk again.
My point is Dads need to step up and be protectors of the family like we historically have always been. It has been my lifetime experience that all bullies are cowards, and when they know a real man is protecting the child they will go away. Believe me.
A few years ago there was a survey prepared by I-Safe.Org.
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. One in four have had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly one in five had had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mails or other messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than four out of ten say it has happened more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
A 2006 survey by Harris Interactive also reported:
- 43% of U.S. teens having experienced some form of cyber-bullying in the past year.
Similarly, a Canadian study found:
- 23% of middle-schoolers surveyed had been bullied by e-mail
- 35% in chat rooms
- 41% by text messages on their cell phones
- Fully 41% did not know the identity of the perpetrators.
We can safely assume it’s only gotten worse when these reports were first published. Cyberbullying was first identified by a Canadian educator Bill Belsey, and the Canadian Bar Association describes it as following:
Cyberbullying is a type of harassment using technology. Whether it is criminal harassment depends on the facts of a case. Cyberbullies use social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), blogs, texting, instant messaging, posting embarrassing images of victims, email and other internet tools to engage in deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior intended to harm, embarrass, denigrate or slander someone such as sending or posting cruel rumors and falsehoods to damage someone’s reputation and friendships.
In some ways cyberbullying can be worse than traditional bullying because the technology can follow you wherever you are and there can be no safe haven from it. It can also be harsher because the bullies become emboldened to say things by hiding behind a device or an anonymous avatar.
The U.S. has a federal cyberstalking law that is designed to prosecute people for using electronic means to repeatedly harass or threaten someone online.
The National Crime Prevention Association lists tactics often used by teen cyberbullies:
- Pretend they are other people online to trick others.
- Spread lies and rumors about victims.
- Trick people into revealing personal information.
- Send or forward mean text messages.
- Post pictures of victims without their consent.
What can you do if someone is stalking, harassing, or cyberbullying you?
- First, if the harassment is attempted communication with you, tell the person to stop. Otherwise, they may not know that they are harassing you.
- Secondly, never reply to harassing messages and ignore them if you can.
- Call the police to report the problem. Record the details of every incident, including time, date, place, who was involved, and what was said and done.
- Keep letters, notes, voicemail messages, emails, texts, instant messages, and social media and internet posts. Give them to the police.
- If the harassment happens at school, report it to the school authorities, as well as to the police. If it happens at work, report it to your boss, plus the police.
- Report cyberbullying or other harassing communication to your internet or cellphone company. Most companies have policies on acceptable use of their services, and can cancel the service of a customer who violates those policies. The company can also help police find a cyberbully who is using their network.
- If you get a harassing phone call on a landline, dial *57 immediately when the call ends. The phone company will record the phone number that made the call, so the police can get it. If you receive harassing calls on your cell phone, call the phone company for help in tracking the calls.
- You can also seek a civil restraining order in court. But to do this, you will need legal advice.
What happens after you report the problem?
If a person is charged with criminal harassment, Crown Counsel (the prosecutor) makes the case against (or prosecutes) them. The prosecutor may proceed by indictment for serious cases, and then the maximum penalty is 10 years in jail. Or the prosecutor may proceed by summary conviction for less serious cases, and then the maximum penalty is either a fine or 6 months in jail, or both.
If a court finds a person guilty, it will probably order the person to obey certain conditions. For example, a court will normally order a person convicted of criminal harassment to have no contact with you directly or indirectly, to stay away from your home and workplace, and to not own or carry any weapons. A court may also order a convicted person to take counseling, if it might help.
If the court sends the person to jail and fines them, it cannot also order them to obey conditions. Usually, a court will order the person to obey conditions and either fine or jail them.
What kids need to do to protect themselves from bullying:
1. First off (like I said above) if you are being harassed tell them to stop and try to ignore them as best you can. Don’t engage with them because you will only fan the flames.
2. Change your mobile phone number to stop malicious text messages.
3. Or install an app like Handcent that has a blacklist feature that will stop text messages from certain numbers.
4. Change your email address. Or you can set up filters to automatically delete messages and/or move them to an evidence folder for the Police (recommended).
5. Remember that what you put out on the web can and will come back to haunt you.
6. Predators are very good at pretending to be younger than they really are. So don’t be so trusting with strangers online.
7. If you haven’t met them in the real world then treat them with suspicion.
8. File a complaint to Facebook and demand that they deactivate accounts that are putting up offensive content, images and using it to harass and torture innocent individuals.
9. Ask your parents to get involved, get your teacher or a lawyer if they don’t take your complaint seriously.
10. Contact the authorities, including law enforcement and your school.
11. Put your Facebook account on hold (deactivate).
12. Create a new profile if you must and only give it out to your trusted friends.
13. Be certain to secure your profile to the max.
14. Or better still don’t use Facebook or social media at all until the bullies have been stopped.
15. What you can’t see or hear won’t hurt you.
16. Contact your ISP and/or cell phone provider.
17. Don’t delete messages from cyberbullies. Keep a file on the them for evidence including snapshots of posts they make on the web that they might try to take down later to conceal their tracks.
18. Seek out support from your family, close friends, counselling and the authorities.
19. Above all, do everything within your means to isolate yourself from the bullies and take care of YOU.
20. Trust me … although it may seem like the harassment will last forever … this will pass.
Social Media Sites:
During the show I asked where was Zuckerberg’s outrage? Well two days after asking the question I’m happy to report that Facebook is now taking bullying more seriously. Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter need to take cyberbullying complaints seriously and deactivate accounts that are being used for harassing and psychologically tormenting innocent people.
Accounts that are posting risque pictures of someone without their permission ought to be warned to take it down and/or face deactivation/prosecution. The same goes for mobile phone carriers. Accounts that are abusing text messaging to harass people ought to be suspended and the authorities should be contacted.
In the Real World:
- In my view parents need to be front line soldiers protecting our kids.
- Parents need to provide emotional support for your children and take cyberbullying seriously.
- Dads especially need to step up and protect our kids from bullying.
- Parents of bullies need to make it clear their kids will catch serious hell when caught.
- Law enforcement needs to take bullying more seriously.
- Get your local politician to get off their butt and put pressure on the Police if they aren’t taking your complaints seriously.
- Parents of victims should speak directly to the bully’s parents.
- If that doesn’t work then go to the Police and the School authorities.
- If they just shrug their shoulders then it’s up to us to take matters into hand and protect our kids.
- And if it were my child I would be in the bully’s face (especially if it was a boy) and let him know in no uncertain terms the bullying stops or the next time we meet it won’t be for just a chinwag. Just saying.
- I know from personal experience that all bullies are cowards and they will back down when identified and confronted.
- Parents should arrange to pick up their kids after school so that they aren’t followed home by the bullies.
- When you get home unplug and turn off. Your home should be your safe refuge from the world. A place for healing and renewal.
What we as a Society Need to Do:
- Isolate and unplug the Bullies.
- Support systems on a local level.
- Beefing up punishment in the criminal code across the country.
- And/Or the Police need to be better trained and take complaints of bullying more seriously and enforce the law.
- Schools need to take steps to protect kids from being bullied in the halls, the washrooms, the lunch room and change rooms until kids are off the property.
What’s The Bottom Line?
As we can see in Amanda’s case (and numerous others) cyberbullying is no joke and kids need to understand they are not powerless. There are options available and with help from family, friends and the authorities there is no need for a tragedy like Amanda Todd to happen again.
A message needs to be sent to all would-be cyberbullies that there will be zero tolerance. I would also add that all those bullies at Amanda’s school who were in league with the alleged pedephile (unwittingly or not) should also be charged as accessories to the crime.
As we can see from Amanda’s case and numerous other victims bullying is a serious offense and not just “kids being kids”. Kids who are bullies grow into adult bullies, and will continue to do so until someone stands up to them.
In case you missed it live you can listen to the show here:
Knowledge is power. Be safe.