On one hand, technology has presented new opportunities and ways to start businesses, increase productivity, conduct research, and keep connected with family. Unfortunately, it also has a down side—it offers additional opportunities for youth to inflict emotional stress on other students.
The rates of various types of cyber bullying are notably increasing (http://www.cyberbullyalert.com/blog/2008/11/cyber-bullying-on-the-rise/). The circumstances that provide ways for this bullying to easily occur won't change anytime soon. The Internet is now nearly universally used. Students are using common social media sites as bully vehicles. Texting on cell phones is an all too common method to slam other students. A cell phone's easy access to the web adds to its usefulness as a social "weapon." Some students are now actually creating their own websites for the express purpose of bullying other students.
Notwithstanding the enabling technology, there are things students can do when they regularly receive bullying threats and on-line harassment. The list below is adapted from the DVD Let's Get Real:
- Don't fight back. It creates escalated conflict and often provokes the offenders to continue the bullying. They want to know that they are having an effect on you.
- Print evidence. Having a hard copy of what bullies have sent will substantiate your position as you try to get it stopped.
- Tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult. You do not have to face this treatment alone. They will help with moral support, connect you to law enforcement if necessary, and can help you strategize your actions.
- It's important to know that bullying via email violates the terms of service for most Internet Service Providers. If you can show certain email sources are bullying you, they can be shut down.
- It's possible to specifically block the email source that the bullying is using to harass you (This may offer some help, but eventually the bully may either shift sending locations or change his or her email address to continue the harassment.).
- It's better to make a white list than to block out certain addresses. This way, a list is made that only allows the specific friendly email locations through to you—i.e., your trusted friends. You can remove a name anytime.
- Never lose faith in yourself. You're here for a reason. You have purpose. Don't give others "permission" to make you feel less of a person or to diminish that purpose.
In addition to the above basic approaches, a student can take the following additional steps:
- Seek out a good mentor and get strength from him/her. You may need the help of the school or an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters to find one. Mentors have the potential to positively change the lives of students and help you navigate past turbulent scholastic waters.
- Change your communication habits. Take a "rest" from the social site that is being used to cause most of the problems. For instance, if you are plagued by bullying on Twitter, you don't have to tweet. There are other social engines or communication venues that can take up the slack.
- Align yourself with positive support groups. Participation in select afterschool activities, clubs, teams, etc. will increase the size of your support net and increase the number of positive and caring people that will merit your attention.
Without question, there are no easy answers. But there are many steps that can be taken that add toward preventing a substantial part of the problem.