Cyber Pox: A Look at Female Adolescent Cyber Bullying

Article excerpt

Bullying is no longer limited to direct physical or verbal confrontations in the schoolyard. Technology has enabled bullying to expand into cyber space. The power of the Internet and its influence on the lives of teens should not be underestimated. In an adolescent world dominated by peer pressure, electronic connections pose an element of danger. Computer access is readily available in schools, public libraries, and the home.

Regardless of race, culture, or ethnicity the goal for school personnel remains to develop successful intervention strategies to combat bullying and cyber bullying, to constructively work with bullies, engage the bystanders, empower victims, and keep students safe. This article discusses aspects of bullying found in cyber bullying and presents prevention and intervention strategies for school counselors and parents.

Cyber Bullying Defined

Cyber bullying utilizes communication and information technologies. Cyber bullying is a covert form of psychological bullying. It can be verbal, utilizing a cell phone or written messages. Electronic media such as cell phones, websites, chatrooms, "MUD" rooms (multi-user domains where individuals can assume different names and characters) and online personal profiles, such as MySpace.com, enable bullies to hide behind screen names whereby they can remain anonymous (Shariff & Johnny, 2007).

The critical difference between cyber bullying and regular bullying rests with the balance of power between the bully and the victim. Cyber bullying involves more victims than in-school bullying. Empowered by anonymity, a victim at school can become the tormenter from home. Anonymous perpetrators can transmit personal attacks in seconds. Perhaps, the most frightening aspect is the rapidity and scope of the email distribution (Willard 2007b). No longer is an incident confined between two students. Now the entire school population is there to witness the harassment and become privy to defamatory remarks about a classmate. "The Internet has unleashed its dark side, an underground, adolescent world of spite and vengeance. It is the bathroom wall moved into everybody's bedroom." (Cooper, 2004, p. 1).

Invariably, cyber bullying occurs without adults present, usually from a bedroom computer. And, the bully in school can continue attacking anyone from home. Schoolyard bullies are easily identifiable. Tracing a cyber bully is more difficult. The author learned that websites, such as Wiredsafety.org are used to track cyber attacks. Local authorities can also be involved. "Cyberspace represents new territory for peer mistreatment, often leaving school administrators with doubts about the boundaries of their jurisdiction" (Strom & Strom, 2005, p. 36). "Virtual violence on the electronic media in the USA seems inescapable" (Jambor, 1996). Children tend not to share cyber bullying incidents with their parents for fear that they may interfere, which could make the bullying worse, or that their parents will punish them, or restrict their use of technology (Keith & Martin, 2005). So, in spite of being a victim of cyber bullying or cyber threats, the child or adolescent is more fearful of restricted Internet use than sharing the issue with an adult. Staying connected is the lifeline to their social groups.

Some students tend to be targets of Internet abuse and others are not. Sometimes victims are simply those students who do not conform to the norms of the peer group, or the dominant group. They can be regarded as misfits for any number of reasons, such as bad teeth, hairstyle, clothes, or being too fat, or too thin. A student's behavior can be the source of future bullying, for instance, if a student cries too easily in class, he or she may become victimized.

Identification of Victims and Consequences of Bullying

Girls, who have difficulty regulating their emotions, feelings, and communicating effectively, are easy targets for victimization by peers (Duncan, 2004). …