Parry’s Guide to Cyber Bullying Kids have always tormented each other. Just think about Lord of the Flies. Now with the help of cyber technologies, sadly, they are doing it more and more online, using mobile phones and interactive games. I spend as much time protecting kids from each other online these days as from cyberpredators. What is Cyber Bullying? Cyber bullying is any cyber-communication or publication posted or sent by a minor online, by instant messager, email, Web site, blog, online profile, interactive game, handheld device, cell phone or other interactive device that is intended to frighten, embarrass, harass, or otherwise target another minor. If there aren’t minors on both sides of the communication, it is considered cyberharassment, not cyber bullying. A one-time rude or insulting communication sent to a minor is generally not considered cyber bullying. Cyber bullying generally needs to be repeated, or a threat of bodily harm, or a public posting designed to hurt, embarrass, or otherwise target a child. What ages does it usually affect? Most cyber bullying typically involves preteens (as young as 9) and young teens. It usually ends around 14 years of age. After 14, it tends to become sexual harassment or hacking attacks. How prevalent is it? Very. 90% of the middle school students we polled admitted to having had their feelings hurt online. Seventy-five percent to 90% of the preteen and young teen students we polled reported being involved directly or indirectly in a cyber bullying incident. They were either the cyberbully, the victim, or a close friend of one or the other. Sixty percent have heard of or seen a Web sitse bashing another student in their school, and 45% have visited a bashing Web site. Forty percent have either had their password stolen and changed by a bully (locking them out of their own account) or had communications sent to others posing as them. Many studies that ask kids if they have been cyberbullied fall short of measuring the real problem for failing to define the scope of the issue. The kids often do not consider many of these actions to be “cyber bullying.” Studies must ask each of the typical cyber bullying methods to be able to determine how many kids have been victimized by a cyberbully or have been cyberbullies themselves. Many kids go back and forth (often in the course of the same cyber bullying incident) between being a victim and a cyberbully. And some kids don’t mean to be a cyberbully at all, but because they haven’t been careful with what they say or how they say it or whom they say it to, is considered a cyberbully by the recipient. How does it work? There are two kinds of cyber bullying, direct attacks (messages sent to kids directly) and cyber bullying by proxy (using others to help cyberbully the victim, either with or without the accomplice’s knowledge). Because cyberbullying by proxy often gets adults involved in the harassment, it is much more dangerous. Direct Attacks 1. Instant Messaging/Text Messaging Harassment a) Kids may send hateful or threatening messages to other kids, without realizing that while not said in real life, unkind or threatening messages are hurtful and very serious. b) Warning wars —Many Internet Service Providers offer a way of “telling on” or reporting a user who is saying inappropriate things. Kids often engage in “warning wars” which can lead to kicking someone offline for a period of time. While this should be a security tool, kids sometimes use the Warn button as a game or prank to get the victim’s account shutdown. c) A kid/teen may create a screen name that is very similar to another kid’s name. The name may have an additional “i” or one less “e.” They may use this name to say inappropriate things to other users while posing as the other person. (This is also called “posing” and is considered cyber bullying.) d) Text wars or text attacks are when kids gang up on the victim, sending thousands of text-messages to the victim’s mobile phone or other mobile device. The victim is then faced with a huge cell phone bill and angry parents. e) Kids send death threats using IM and text-messaging as well as photos/videos (see below). 2. Stealing passwords a) A kid may steal another child’s password and begin to chat with other people, pretending to be the other kid. He/she may say mean things that offend and anger this person’s friends or even strangers. Meanwhile, they won’t know it is not really that person they are talking to. This also happens when they forget to logout and an older or younger sibling, friend, or even a parent starts using the account pretending to be the child. b) A kid may also use another kid’s password to change his/her profile to include sexual, racist, and inappropriate things that may attract unwanted attention or offend people. c) A kid often steals the password and locks the victim out of their own account. d) Once the password is stolen, hackers may use it to hack into the victim’s computer. 3. Blogs and Profiles Blogs are online journals. They are a fun way for kids and teens to post messages for all of their friends to see. However, kids sometimes use these blogs to damage other kids’ reputations or invade their privacy. For example, in one case, a boy posted a bunch of blogs about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend, explaining how she destroyed his life, calling her degrading names. Their mutual friends read about this and criticized her. She was embarrassed and hurt all because another kid posted mean, private, and false information about her. Sometimes kids set up a blog or profile page pretending to be their victim and saying things designed to humiliate them. 4. Web sites a) Children used to tease each other on the playground; now they are cyber bullying on the Web sites. Kids sometimes create Web sites that may insult or endanger another child. They create pages specifically designed to insult another kid or group of people. b) Kids also post other kids’ personal information and pictures, which put those people at a greater risk of being contacted or found. They may be doing this innocently or with the intention of hurting others. 5. Sending Pictures Through E-mail and Cell Phones a) There have been cases of teens sending mass e-mails to other users, that include nude or degrading pictures of other teens. Once the email is sent, it could get passed around to hundreds of other people within hours; there is no way of controlling where it goes. b) Many of the newer cell phones allow kids to send pictures to each other. The kids receive the pictures directly on their phones and may send it to everyone in their address books. After viewing the picture at a Web site, some kids have actually posted these pictures on social networks and other programs for anyone to download or view. c) Kids often take a picture of someone in a locker room, bathroom, or dressing room and post it online or send it to others on cell phones. 6. Internet Polling Who’s Hot? Who’s Not? Who is the biggest slut in the eighth grade? These types of questions run rampant on the Internet polls, all created by kids and teens. Such questions are often very offensive to others and are yet another way that kids are cyber bullying other kids online. 7. Interactive Gaming Many kids today are playing interactive games on gaming devices such as X-Box and Sony Play Station. These gaming devices allow a child to communicate by chat and live Internet phone with anyone they find themselves matched with in a game online. Sometimes the kids verbally abuse the other kids, using threats and lewd language. Sometimes they take it further, by locking them out of games, passing false rumors about them, or hacking into their accounts. 8 . Sending Malicious Code Kids can send viruses, spyware, and hacking programs to their victims. They do this to either destroy their computers or spy on their victim. Trojan Horse programs allow the cyberbully to remotely control their victim’s computer and can be used to erase the hard drive of the victim. 9. Sending Porn and Other Junk E-Mail and IMs Often cyberbullies will sign their victims up for emailing and IM marketing lists, lots of them, especially to porn sites. When the victim receives thousands of emails from pornographers their parents usually get involved, either blaming them (assuming they have been visiting porn sites) or making them change their email or IM address. 10. Impersonation/Posing Posing as the victim, someone can do considerable cyber bullying damage . They may post a provocative message in a hate group’s chatroom, inviting an attack against the victim, often giving the name, address, and telephone number of the victim to make the hate group’s job easier. They may also send a message to someone, saying hateful or threatening things. They may also alter a message really from the victim, making it appear that they have said nasty things or shared secrets with others. Cyber Bullying by Proxy Often people who misuse the Internet to target others do it using accomplices. These accomplices, unfortunately, are often unsuspecting. They know they are communicating irate or provocative messages, but don’t realize that they are being manipulated by the real cyberharasser or cyberbully. That’s the beauty of this type of scheme. The attacker, by creating indignation or emotion on the part of others, can sit back and let others do their dirty work. Then, when legal action or other punitive actions are taken against the accomplice, the real attacker can claim that they never instigated anything and no one was acting on their behalf. They claim innocence and blame their accomplices, willing or not. And their accomplices have no legal leg to stand on. It’s brilliant and very powerful. It is also one of the most dangerous kinds of cyberharassment or cyber bullying. Children do this often using AOL, MSN or another ISP as their “proxy” or accomplice. When they engage in a “notify” or “warning” war, they are using this method to get the ISP to view the victim as the provocateur. A notify or warning war is when one child provokes another, until the victim lashes back. When they do, the real attacker clicks the warning or notify button on the text screen. This captures the communication and flags it for the ISP’s review. If the ISP finds that the communication violated their terms of service agreement (which most do) they may take action. Some accounts allow several warnings before formal action is taken. But the end result is the same. The ISP does the attacker’s dirty work when they close or suspend the real victim’s account for a “terms of service” violation. Most knowledgeable ISPs know this and are careful to see if the person being warned is really being set-up. Sometimes children use the victim’s own parents as unwitting accomplices. They provoke the victim and when the victim lashes back, they save the communication and forward it to the parents of the victim. The parents often believe what they read, and without having evidence of the prior provocations, think that their own child “started it.” This works just as easily in a school disciplinary environment, where the cyberbully hopes to have the school blame the victim. That’s why those in authority should never take any cyber bullying at face value before doing further investigation. Why do kids cyberbully each other? Who knows why kids do anything? When it comes to cyber bullying, they are often motivated by anger, revenge, or frustration. Sometimes they do it for entertainment or because they are bored and have too much time on their hands and too many tech toys available to them. Many do it for laughs or to get a reaction. There are four types of cyberbullies: The “Power Hungry” (and “Revenge of the Nerds” subgroup cyberbullies), the “Mean Girls,” the “Vengeful Angels,” and “Inadvertent Cyberbullies.” Inadvertent cyberbullies do it by accident, by sending a message to the wrong recipient. The Power-Hungry do it to torment others and for their ego. Revenge of the Nerd may start out defending themselves from traditional bullying only to find that they enjoy being the tough guy or gal. They are typically girls or smaller boys. Mean Girls do it to help bolster or remind people of their own social standing. And Vengeful Angels think they are righting wrongs and standing up for others. (For more information about cyber bullying, visit stopcyberbullying.org) Get cyber bullying information, find helpful tips and read advice articles from BeingGirl.com.