For those of you who live in a cave- or don’t have, know, or chat to teenagers cyber bullying is the twenty first century’s answer to schoolyard torture. I chanced upon this phenomenon as a high school teacher at the end of 2000. I say ‘chanced’ wryly- it was already then proving to be a problem. When I pursued writing full time I researched cyber bullying as the background of my novel Destroying Avalon. These are some interesting facts I thought I should share:
– a 2006 survey by the National Coalition Against Bullying and teen magazine Girlfriend found 42% of girls aged between 12-15 reported being intimidated or denigrated online or via mobile phone messaging(Aus)
-according to National Law Enforcement in Vermont 13 million children between the age of 6 -17 are victims of cyber bullying
-70% of all text messages are received at home
-a 2002 British survey found one in four teenagers aged 11 -19 had been threatened via mobile phones and computers- and that included death threats (National Children’s Home UK)
-Bill Belsy author of http://www.cyberbullying.ca/ calls our teenagers the “Always On generation”, he also illuminates quite clearly the importance of this technology to teens. Mobiles and internet access are their ‘social umbilical cord’ – to sever it is to exclude themselves from their social group.
It gets pretty ugly!
Now brace yourself- another problem with this form of bullying is the anonymity it provides. It allows kids, who probably wouldn’t engage in this behaviour an opportunity to hide behind the faceless nature of the internet and torment others. These are the sort of kids who probably wouldn’t bully face to face because they wouldn’t like to see the pain on the victim’s face, or because they don’t want to get caught. Cyber bullying- particularly in chat rooms, takes on a Lord of the Flies mentality- it whips the kids into frenzy. They find themselves sucked in because everyone else is doing it and no one knows who they are!
What they don’t know is they can get caught. Stomp through the world wide web and you will leave footprints. Make death threats and the police can charge you. It’s as simple as that!
Now, I must get off my soap box for today. But there will be more on this topic later. And ideas for what we can do about it!