In the strictest sense, cyber bullying is when someone is a virtual target of humiliation, harassment and/or embarrassment via the use of digital technologies. However, unlike physical bullying, which at least puts a face to the harasser, cyber bullying is largely done behind closed doors using the protection of a pseudonym. Even if the harasser and victim are known to each other, the Internet offers a shield behind which bullies can hide.
Recently, there has been an incident of cyber bullying involving two juniors at one of the international schools. One of the young boys had been provoking and teasing his target over Facebook, making his taunts public for the entire junior class to see. The bully had been calling his victim names and publishing embarrassing stories about him. The teasing and taunting had been going on for months, but the victim chose not to speak up, as he felt like he had no one to turn to.
The online conflict escalated into a physical fight during class time, apparently “to settle things once and for all.” The fight resulted in a suspension for the bully who initiated the confrontation, as well as an unfortunate expulsion for the victim (it was his second fight of the academic year).
A group of fellow classmates rallied behind the victim and requested the school not expel him. The classmates explained the cyber bulling to their teachers and said that to expel the boy would be unfair.
The school plans on holding information sessions, urging them to take precautions when online. However, students say that holding information sessions would do little to stop online bullying.
The issue with cyber bullying is that it happens under the radar and often outside school hours. If students are harassing each other from the comfort of their homes, just how much are schools expected to do and when should they intervene?
While it’s up to parents to monitor their children’s online activity at home, unless your kids actually tell you they are being harassed, it’s difficult to detect that anything is wrong. Cyber bullying shows no physical signs – no bruises, no missing pocket money, no torn clothes.
Friends at school may not be all that supportive either, as they feel that it’s none of their business, or that they will incur the wrath of the bully themselves should they step forward.
Parents must maintain communication with their children and be supportive if they come to them with a problem. Remember: Even though there are some privacy settings on social networking sites, there are always ways for bullies to access and leak embarrassing and hurtful information.
As for kids: If you are a victim of cyber bullying, you must tell an adult you trust whether it is your parents, a relative, a friend, or a teacher. Telling someone is important because they can help you.
Jodie is beijingkids’ student correspondent and is our eyes and ears on the ground. A junior student at Western Academy of Beijing, Jodie is also a contributor to the student-run magazine Unit-E. Check back for more of her blogs about student life.