by Vanessa Van Petten
I am very concerned about cyberbullying and have read so many recent news summaries about how bullying has changed, can you talk about how bullying has changed so I can talk to my kids about it?
Thank you, Terry
The Internet has changed the playground-bully into the in-my-bedroom-bully. It’s true, the line between school life and home life is gone. Kids can no longer leave the social pressures, cliques, bullies, snootyness and the other highlights of adolescence at school.
Now the social scene follows students home, into their bedrooms, and can be turned on at any moment. No, in fact it is never turned off, because you never know who is going to post something mean on your wall next. Here, I want to give a brief overview of how bullying has changed for the net-generation so parents are more equipped to handle it and help their kids deal with it. Today, bullying/cyberbullying is:
Options for a bully circa 1980:
-steal lunch money
-call someone names/say mean things to their face
-call someone names/say mean things behind their back
-punch them in the face/kick them/pinch them/ physically assault them
-punch them in the face/kick them/pinch them/ physically assault their friend or usually younger, relative.
-write a nasty note and pass it around class, leave it on their locker
-stick your tongue out at them
Options for a bully today: (just from the news stories I found on bullying alone, I could think of many more that have not been reported on)
Everything from above, plus:
-write a nasty note or rumor on their Facebook wall for everyone to see
-put up embarrassing pictures of the person on your school’s social network
-digitally impose the person’s head onto a naked body and pass it around like it is real
-submit their name/picture to a site like “Hot or Not” for strangers to rate how ugly the person is
-create a website dedicated to how much you hate that person
-bait them into writing a mean/weird IM chat and post it all over MySpace.
-Create a fake user, pretend to be hot, flirt with the person and then break up with them/tell them you hate them/ tell them they are too ugly for you.
-Send mean text messages
-harass their avatars or video game players on gaming websites
It is incredibly sad, but the Internet has brought thousands of ways to bully someone without ever being caught. Parents need to know that their child could be bullied in a number of ways online, through phones and even through video games.
Before, if you got in a fight at school, or found out you were not invited to a party, you were able to come home and vent about to mom/ dad/ sister/ brother, get a snack and cool off. Now, if you are mad at someone, you can instantly send a text message to your social networking profile to post a mean comment. Now there is no ‘off’ time and the second something happens, everyone knows about it because they all get alerts or texts from automated news feeds or plugged-in friends. Teens are checking these services CONSTANTLY, so before what took a few days to spread, now can take a few minutes.
Some things, like postings on your wall, video, a text message or email, you can delete. Other things, such as photos or social network announcements can be up there forever or until the writer removes them.
Also, even if they post a superimposed picture for five minutes on a school network before it is removed, others can easily download it and repost it or pass it around by email undetected—and as with all gossip, even the most factless based rumors hurt a reputation.
The whole point of many social networks, texting and websites is to be connected to people you would not normally be connected to. I always say that ‘privacy settings’ should really be called ‘lace curtain settings’ because you never know who is going to get into your profile the back way (MySpace pedophiles). Before, nerds, jocks or drama queens went to different parties and traveled in different circles. Now, the ‘great connector that is the Internet makes everyone’s personal information and attention accessible on the same sites.
The more popular kids have always made fun of the ‘uncool’ kids, but now bullying is easily made ‘fun’ for everyone. At Juicy Campus, a website all about spreading gossip and rumors, or Hot or Not.com, users can vote on the attractiveness of submitted pictures and make students who would not normally ‘bully’ or gossip attracted to the idea. Hot or Not makes it cool and fun to judge people based on their appearance and is very popular with my generation.
Even gangs are now using social networking sites to recruit and organize activities…seriously.
It is really hard to walk up to someone and say to them: “You are a fat slut.” It is much easier to write that on someone’s Facebook wall—which someone did. Technology provides a way for students to be mean even more “behind the back.” Many times, you can even post pictures, videos or send messages anonymously! This has changed the face of bullying because it allows people to be mean and not face the consequences—they can’t get punched back, they can hide it from parents and teachers by posting anonymously and do not have to say it to people, they can simply type a comment in a moment of passion when they are alone in their room!
It is really important to talk about these new aspects of bullying. I bring these issues up with all of the kids I mentor and teen groups I speak to. Make sure to discuss with them the ramifications of letting a friend take a sexy picture, disabling the Facebook wall or what would happen if they got in a fight with a friend.
Also give them resources if they know another student is being bullied. With the recent school shootings, it is important for kids to have a place to anonymously report bullying of any kind. They can do this at: ancomm.com.
I hope that this post has been relevant and informative, be sure to send it to any families or teens who you think might need it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on dealing with cyberbulling, visit CommonSenseMedia.org.
Vanessa Van Petten is the teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!” She writes a parenting blog along with 12 other teen writers from the kid’s perspective to help parents understand what is actually going on in the mind of kid’s today. Her parenting tips have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Daily News, Fox 5 New York, CBS 4 Miami and much more. Visit her web site at RadicalParenting.com