Cyber Bullying

Our counselor has noticed a recent increase in the number of harassment incidents that appear to be based on E-mail exchanges, student blogs, and cell phone messages. Are other schools experiencing this?

Yes, so many that there’s a new term: Cyber bullying. It refers to harassing, threatening, or otherwise harming another individual via the various electronic forms of communication, including E-mail, Instant Messages, cell phone text messages, Web pages, and Weblogs. In the last five years there has been a sharp increase in this kind of behavior among middle and high school students, but elementary-aged children aren’t immune. Unlike schoolyard bullying, which usually occurs in a place where adults know to monitor this kind of behavior, cyber bullies ‘virtually’ attack their victims anytime, anywhere. This often results in more psychological damage to the victim than face-to-face encounters.

Your authority to act in this kind of situation may be limited, depending upon where the cyber bullying is taking place. However, even in situations where the school cannot take disciplinary action, you need to offer support to the victim and his/her family. There are now several Web sites devoted to this topic that offer suggestions about ways students and parents can deflect bullying attempts, and how educators can help. One good example is Cyberbullying.

Submitted by: Susan Brooks-Young