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Cyber Bullying - Help Educate our Youth and family

Written by Jeff Stein, LPI

Cyber Bullying In 2006, a young girl committed suicide as a result of verbal harassment in messages sent through MySpace.com. This event triggered a tidal wave response from the nation, and several anti-cyberbullying laws have been proposed by states since then.

Bullying beyond the four walls. In the age of technology new issues, concerns and methods of stalking, bullying and other technical crimes have emerged. This is no time to put our heads in the sand and think the problems will go away. Our children need to know that cyber bullying can be serious and dangerous and no one should let these issues go unreported.

Help us educate your family and friends so innocent lives are not damaged. Please share and distribute this with your co-workers and loved ones.

Monitor the Innocent before it’s too Late

Written by Colin Waszkiewicz, ELPS Private Detective Agency

The increasingly widespread use of the Internet as a tool for communication, social-networking, and entertainment has proven to be both beneficial and efficient due to the ability to access vast amounts of technology from personal computers. However, it is clear that all technological innovations have potential negative implications when utilized by consumers with immoral, criminal intentions. Unfortunately, those Internet users benefit from access to a worldwide network which affords them with the ultimate level of anonymity and protection. Therefore, many Internet crimes go unreported and the criminals avoid detection by the law enforcement community.

Such is often the case involving crimes against children, for many unassuming children and teenagers access the Internet without realizing the true scope and implications of their online correspondence. Furthermore, even those children who are not victimized as a result of their own Internet activities can be violated by the online distribution of criminal endeavors.

Recently, cyber bullying has become a more prominent issue in discussions of youth Internet usage despite the belief that cyber bullying cannot cause actual harm to a victim. The potential psychological damage of cyber bullying is comparable to that of traditional bullying wherein physical violence occurs. Cyber bullying is a form of online harassment that is considered to be one of the various subcategories of cyber violence (Hanewald, 2008). It is defined as "a situation when a child, tween or teen is repeatedly tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, tween or teen using text messaging, email, instant messaging or any other type of digital technology” (WiredKids Inc., 2009). Cyber bullying not only occurs through online correspondence, but also through the text and picture capabilities of cellular phones and pagers. Although online bullying may seem somewhat innocent, the actions can escalate into more serious situations. For example, one short heated exchange can develop into an extended period of online harassment or stalking. Also, some perpetrators may be posing as another person during the bullying in order to send hateful messages to the victim. The victim can face further embarrassment when a bully spreads false or private information to others through Internet communications (Hanewald, 2008).

As the accessibility of computers and other communication devices with Internet access has increased, the frequency of cyber bullying has also grown drastically. In September 2006, ABC News reported that 42% of children ages 9 to 13 have been bullied while online. Among that 42%, one in four have been cyber bullied more than once (i-SAFE Inc., 2009). Additionally, from 2000 to 2005, reports of cyber bullying among youths grew from 28 percent to 48 percent (Hanewald, 2008). Moreover, the online harassment was continued over an extended time rather than being one isolated event. While typical bullies and victims tend to be young males, the online equivalent most often involves female bullies and victims. Furthermore, the anonymity allows bullies to avoid identification. Almost half of the children who had been victimized did not know who the perpetrator was (Hanewald, 2008). Unlike traditional bullying, there is no interference by teachers or bystanders; therefore, the children hide the abuse from parents and other authority figures. In a study by the Foundation for Internet Safety, it was found that among 1,566 fourth to eighth grade students, 58 percent of the victims did not report the bullying to a parent or adult (Hanewald, 2008). Therefore, children often face repeated online abuse from peers because action cannot be taken if the problem is not revealed. Because cyber bullies are not regularly punished for their actions, they continue to use instant messaging, chat rooms, and cell phones to harass their peers (Hanewald, 2008).

As previously noted, the potential for ensuing violence or psychological distress stemming from cyber bullying has brought the topic to the attention of the media, parents, educators, and law enforcement professionals. In 2006, Megan Meier, a young girl from Missouri, committed suicide after being a victim of online bullying and harassment which took the form of impersonation (“MySpace Mom linked,” 2007). A former friend’s mother created a false MySpace profile and used it to deceive Meier into thinking the profile was that of a fictitious boy who wanted to date her. The mother eventually closed the account, but only after leaving a hateful message that left Megan emotionally unstable (“MySpace Mom linked,” 2007). Unfortunately, the fabricated ploy and eventual break-up distressed Meier to the point of suicide. As a result of the attention garnered by this tragedy, Missouri has proposed an Internet harassment task force, and Meier’s hometown has passed legislation making online harassment a misdemeanor (“MySpace Mom linked,” 2007). Such an example illustrates how easily bullying in cyberspace can reveal itself as an actual physical threat. As the incidence of cyber bullying increases, it seems that more community responses to the problem will be created and implemented in order to avoid its serious consequences.

With all of these potential harms that exist for children and teenagers who have enjoyed unrestricted Internet access, parents must recognize the strong need for controls and supervision, for today’s youth does not completely comprehend the seriousness of their online activities. Cyber bullying, poses serious and potentially fatal risks. Although cyber bullying initially seems innocent, the psychological consequences are immense. Parents must realize such dangers and supervise their children’s online activities. If the parent cannot assume such responsibilities, someone else should step in and fill the void.

References
Hanewald, R. (2008). Confronting the Pedagogical challenge of cyber safety. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 33 (3). Retrieved April 5, 2008.
MySpace Mom linked to Missouri teen’s suicide being cyber-bullied herself. (2007, December 6). Retrieved June 23, 2008
WiredKids Inc. (2009). What is it?. Retrieved June 23, 2009.
i-SAFE Inc. (2009). Cyber Bullying: Statistics and Tips. Retrieved June 23, 2009.

Colin Waszkiewicz is an investigator in Pennsylvania with an anticipated bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in December 2009. He works for ELPS Private Detective Agency in Exton, PA.

See the full Press Release on Investigating Teens, Teen Investigations

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