The recent death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi brings Cyber-Bullying yet again to the forefront of the national news. Tyler jumped to his death off the George Washington bridge after two classmates streamed a sexual encounter he had online. Cyber-Bullying isn’t one of the things parents often think about when it comes to Internet dangers. But it is a danger that can have dire consequences. Before we get into the details of it let define it. Cyber-Bullying is the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms or other forms of information technology to deliberately harass, threaten, or intimidate someone. Most of us probably got bullied at one time or another when we were kids. Cyber-bullying, unfortunately, takes bullying to a whole new level of viciousness. Kids are much bolder with what they do and say online. Since they’re not face-to-face with their victim they feel more empowered to say and do all kinds of rotten and horrible things (like streaming a private sexual moment online).
Cyber-bullying doesn’t just happen among college students and teens. It actually starts much younger. Lets look at some statistics from an I-Safe.org survey of 1,500 students between grades 4-8:
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. One in four have had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly one in five had had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mails or other messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than four out of ten say it has happened more than once.
- 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.
The effects of cyber-bullying can be severe. Research has shown it can increase thoughts of suicide, lower self-esteem and cause depression. There are several cases in the US alone that have linked cyber-bullying to suicide. The recent suicide of Tyler Clementi it a perfect example. Another case that got a lot of public attention is the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. Megan was actually cyber-bullied by a woman using a fake MySpace profile. The woman pretended to be a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. The fake “Josh Evans” became close online friends with Megan but then things turned ugly. “Josh Evans” started posting electronic bulletins about Megan saying things like “Megan Meier is a slut” and “Megan Meier is fat”, according to the Associated Press. Megan eventually committed suicide.
As the stats show, most kids who get cyber-bullied don’t tell their parents about it. Cyber-bullying is very serious so make sure you talk to your kids about it. Find out if it’s happening to them or possible if they’re doing it to someone else. Sometimes something like cyber-bullying can seem harmless to kids but it can have disastrous effects. Just ask Tyler and Megan.