It's sad news when research centers can't agree on whether cyberbullying affects one-in-three, one-in-four, or one-in-five teens. It isn't the specific number that's important; it's the fact that the number never goes below 20%. Imagine being in a classroom of 25 people, knowing that this classroom is not “normal” unless at least five of those students are being bullied.
There are as many ways to cyberbully someone as there are ways to create content online. Social networks? Check. Forums? Check. Blogs? Check. You get the picture. Still, most cyberbullying breaks down into 3 basic types:
Harassing someone directly
It's tragic that this is so easy to do. Email and text / SMS / instant messaging are favorites among bullies. Posting rumors about someone on a social network or a blog is also a common attack. Sometimes the bullies get creative:
- Using the “warn” feature on the victim's social network, to get that person investigated or banned
- Posting the victim's personal information on the Internet, putting the victim in danger of identity theft or the actions of other predators
- Creating an Internet poll that is harmful to the victim (“do you think she is fat” and other mean-spirited questions)
- Using malware or other applications in order to spy on the victim or take control of the victim's computer.
Many cyberbullies go to great lengths to remain anonymous or to use a false identity while harassing the victim.
This is another common technique, and it's easy to do with the help of free and unverified email accounts offered by gmail, hotmail, and others. Bullies create a name similar to the victims and then go online and act in awful ways while pretending to be the victim. Other attacks that fall into this category are,
- Stealing the victim's password (or device) and pretending to be the victim while chatting with others.
- Changing the victim's profile in social accounts so that it is offensive
- Setting up social accounts in the victim's name
These activities are meant to change the public's perception of the victim in a negative way.
Photographs & video
Talk about cruel. Nobody wants an unguarded moment to be photographed and published, and that's exactly why the cyberbullies like this. These photographs could be taken without the victim's knowledge (gym, locker-room, bathroom, etc.) or could have been a posed but private photo. Whatever the case, cyberbullies know just what to do with these pictures:
- Threaten to share them publicly unless the victim complies with a particular demand
- Distribute them via text or email, making it impossible for the victim to control who sees the picture
- Publish the pictures on the Internet for anyone to view
Another common and cruel technique is to record the victim being bullied “in real life” and publish that video to the Internet.
Teens aren't the only ones who are victimized by cyberbullying. Sites like ‘She's a Home Wrecker' are designed specifically to humiliate other adults, and the now defunct ‘Is Anyone Up' allowed people to upload nude photos of other people without permission. There are few laws to deal with this type of online content. Is Anyone Up would likely still be functioning (and profitable) if not for the fact that they engaged in other activities that are clearly illegal.
While no one is immune to cyberbullying, teens are the ones who suffer most often, and it's our responsibility to keep them safe while they are in the classroom or on campus. If you're a faculty or staff member of a K12, you've probably had tons of training related to bullying. It's easier to address this problem once you know what to look for.
For a wild and crazy example of teen bullying where the teen wins, check out this story on gawker.
For information on how Barracuda products can help protect K12 students from cyberbullying, take a look at our K12 solutions website.