Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Cyberbullies, Online Predators, and What to Do about Them

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Cyberbullies, Online Predators, and What to Do about Them

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

You've read the news articles, seen the stories on TV news, or possibly heard them on the radio: Bullies have gone online, predators are lurking everywhere, and MySpace is a nightmare for kids and teens.

What the media doesn't tell you are the facts about how kids and teens can stay safe online. They tend to focus on the sensationalism and not the realism.

Now you can learn what to look out for, what to advise parents about, and how to help students who may be experiencing problems online.

CYBERBULLIES

Let's start with cyberbullies:

* 42 percent of students have been bullied online. One in four have had it happen more than once.

* 35 percent have been threatened online. Nearly one in five have had it happen more than once.

* 21 percent have received mean or threatening emails or other messages.

* 58 percent admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online.

* 53 percent admit to having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than one in three have done it more than once.

* 58 percent have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

(Based on a 2004 survey of 1,500 students conducted by i-SAFE)

It's probably shocking to see that students actually admit to being a cyberbully, but it shouldn't be. Just as bullies are proud of how they have control over their victims on the playground, now they can follow their victims everywhere because of the accessibility of the Internet. This includes instant messaging (IM), chatting, social networking sites such as MySpace, emailing, using message boards or groups, creating a Web site about the victim, text messaging via cell phones, or videotaping a beating on their cell phones and posting it on MySpace or video Web sites such as YouTube. If you are not familiar with any of these, take the time to get to know them.

Here are some examples of what cyberbullies have done to students:

A group of Texas middle school students created a Web site called deborahisabigfatcow.com. They took photos of the student and then put her head on the body of cows.

While playing online games with Xbox, you can talk to others who are online through a headset. That's what happened to a 10-year-old boy playing football online. A man came on, claiming to be a former Dallas Cowboy, and talked with the boy. Then, he began making sexual comments to him.

David Knight, 16 years old, had been bullied since middle school. Then, he was cyberbullied by fellow students who sent him an email about a Web site with his photo and nasty comments about him and his family including that he raped younger boys.

A 14-year-old St. Paul, Minn., boy plead guilty to a felony charge of making terrorist threats for posting a hit list on his MySpace Web profile. "These are the people that have picked on me for the past year and now I want revenge on all 10 of them," the profile read. "This is a threat if you keep messing with me ... you better watch your back cause I will be coming to get you."

Ryan Halligan, 13, lived in Vermont. His bullying went from the schoolyard to the Internet. He received IMs that called him gay, ugly, a loser, and worse. His sister opened the door to the bathroom one morning and found Ryan dead. He hanged himself because he couldn't take it anymore.

Don't let one of your students become the next Ryan Halligan. Can you prevent all instances of cyberbullying? Probably not, but there are things you can do to reduce the phenomenon:

* Take cyberbullying seriously, and deal with it as soon as possible before a situation escalates.

* Make sure that you have a cyberbullying no-tolerance policy in your school and that you enforce it.

* Let students know that they can come to you for help if they are being cyberbullied and that they can trust you. …

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