Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies such as the Internet, social networking sites, websites, email, text messaging and instant messaging to repeatedly intimidate or harass others.
Some examples of cyberbullying include:
- Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages
- Posting embarrassing photos of someone online
- Creating a website to make fun of others
- Pretending to be someone by using his or her name
- Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others
Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying because it:
- Has no boundaries: cyberbullying can follow one home after the school day is done, or anywhere else where communication technologies are accessible.
- Can be harsher: often things are said online that one would not normally say in person, mainly because one cannot see the other person’s reaction.
- Is farther reaching: one can make fun of someone to an entire class with just a few clicks through an email or website, or post something for the whole world to see. Also, anyone can be cyberbullied, including teachers, principals and other adults.
- Can be anonymous: made-up screen names and email addresses are often used. Often times the cyberbully knows the victim, but the victim does not know who the cyberbully is.
Unlike the old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”… they can.
Some forms of cyberbullying can be considered criminal acts. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a crime to communicate repeatedly with someone if your communication causes him or her to fear for his or her own safety or the safety of others. It’s also a crime to publish ‘defamatory libel’: writing something that is designed to insult a person or injure his or her reputation.
If You Are a Victim of Cyberbullying…
- Do not reply to messages or posts from cyberbullies. If possible, block the sender of the emails/messages.
- Keep a copy of the messages. You do not have to read them, but you may need a copy in the future if you decide to report the bullying.
- Tell someone about it, such as a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer or adult you trust.
- If the messages are on a website or webpage, contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Most ISPs have policies that include guidelines for using the service as well as actions that can be taken if they are not followed. Many websites also have a link or button where one can report inappropriate content. In some cases, the website owners themselves can remove the content and/or warn the individual who posted it, while others require an investigation into the incident.
If You Want to Help Prevent Cyberbullying…
- Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
- If you know of someone who cyberbullies, tell them to stop.
- Report any cyberbullying you come across online to a trusted adult.
You can also:
- Develop rules to fight cyberbullying in your school with the help of other students, teachers and school administrators.
- Raise awareness about cyberbullying in your community through assemblies, flyers or posters.
If You Cyberbully Others…
- Realize that cyberbullying is just as bad if not worse than traditional forms of bullying. Those who are bullied online feel many of the same effects as those who are bullied elsewhere.
- Remember: If you wouldn’t say it in person, do not say it online. Use netiquette: treat others online how you would want to be treated.