Trolls, Cyberbullies, and Other Offenders: Dealing with Antisocial Behavior on the Internet: A Thoughtful Friend in His Early 20s Posted a Facebook Status Regretting the Death of the American Ambassador in Libya, Chris Stevens. below, This Comment Appeared: "When Are We Going to Gas Those [Expletive] Ragheads?"
McDermott, Irene E., Searcher
Over the years, I have carefully built my Facebook world to embrace mostly like-minded, or at least kind and intelligent, friends. I have carefully blocked or "hidden" quarrelsome acquaintances. In general, my Facebook world is a safe, delightful place for online camaraderie.
So this vulgar, bigoted comment came as a shock. It also halted any intelligent conversation on the subject. Later, my friend apologized. "I knew this guy in high school," he explained. "He's really not like that in person."
While this crude intrusion into my Facebook space upset me, the comment is mild compared to what goes on in other parts of the web. Look at the comments section on CNN.com or any online news site to witness the name calling and raw prejudice of our fellow citizens on full display. Sometimes it is anonymous. But often, comments are attached to an identity that can be easily traced.
Humans are social creatures. We thrive because we know how to work as a group. As psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen put it, "High empathy fosters social cohesion and it's good for the individual to end up as part of a social network" ("Q&A: Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen on Empathy and the Science of Evil," Maia Szalavitz, TIME.com, Oct. 7, 2012 [http://healthland.time.com/2011/05/30/mindreading-psychologist-simon-baron-cohen-on-empathy-and-the-science-of-evil]). In fact, the technical term that describes what we think of as evil behavior is "antisocial," as in antisocial personality disorder, which is the nice way of calling someone a psychopath.
How does online antisocial behavior start? When it occurs among children, it is known as "cyberbullying." According to the National Crime Prevention Council, almost half of all teens in the U.S. will experience it. Here's how to cope.
What is cyberbullying and what is the best way to deal with it? The National Crime Prevention Council offers ideas to teens and their parents. Positive ways to deal with the bullies include blocking their messages, deleting them before reading, and reporting the behavior to a website administrator or ISP. It is not wise to try to get revenge on a tormentor by bullying back.
Cyberbullying Research Center
Dr. Sameer Hinduja of Florida Atlantic University and Dr. Justin Patchin of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire work together to research the causes and consequences of cyberbullying. In addition to advice for parents and teens about how to prevent and deal with cyberbullying, the professors provide a current list of anti-cyberbullying laws by state: www.cyberbullying.us/Bullying_and_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf.
Longtime internet privacy and cyberabuse expert Parry Aftab makes more sense than anyone else about keeping kids safe online. As an attorney, she addresses specifics: Is the abuse a one-time event or is it chronic? Was there retaliation? Are there laws in your state that govern cyberbullying? Aftab reserves the term "cyberbullying" for abuse against minors. In the adult world, that behavior is termed "cyberharassment" or "cyberstalking." She details the damage that cyberbullying can inflict not only on children but on parents' home computers, which can be hacked to access bank accounts and other personal information, on her specialty site: http://stopcyberbullying.org.
Are You a Cyberbully?
As humans, we are experts at rationalizing our behavior. How can we tell if what we do ourselves counts as cyberbullying? Teens and adults alike can take this test to assess their online actions.
Harassment in Online Gaming
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the number of women gamers is growing [www. …