With the world turning into a global village, interactions between people in different geographical locations have been made easier by technological advancements. There has been increased internet usage and many people irrespective of their ages have been using it as a medium of communication and source of any information one may need.
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However, with the ease of accessing it, many people especially minors have turned into using internet for other purposes which sometimes are threats to their own existence. One of the negative uses of internet which is a matter of concern to many parents is Cyber bullying (Byron, 2009).
The use of information and communication technologies to support a deliberate and most of the time repeated hostile behavior by an individual or groups of people with the sole intention of harming others, one is said to be engaging in cyber bullying.
Others define it as any form of cyber communication posted or sent by a minor or a teen online whether using an instant messenger, website, a profile diary or even by use of a phone or any device which is interactive with the main intention of frightening, embarrassing harassing or target another minor.
Cyber bullying therefore has to involve a minor against another minor but when adults become involved it is referred to as cyber harassment or cyber stalking (Hindunja & Patchin, 2009). Most of the times, cyber bullying is not a one time communication unless it involves death threats or bodily harm. Sometimes cyber bullying may rise to the level of cyber harassment or if the child is young enough it can also translate to juvenile delinquency if the child is too young. Cyber bullying takes place in many forms and they include:
Methods of Cyber bullying
Those who engage in cyber bullying use different tactics with which they inflict harm. The following are among the methods bullies use:
Flaming involves the use of angry confrontation messages by the bully to the victim. Most of the people who use flaming as a bullying method are total strangers who threaten their targets by using vulgar and explicit language. Harassment is the other method bullies use and it is usually inflicted by use of emails, text messages, and instant messages or in chat messages. It involves sending harassing and offensive messages repetitively.
Denigration is the other method and it involves using of derogatory statements and then disseminating them electronically. The aim of these derogatory statements is usually to tarnish the target reputation among his or her peers. Masquerading is another method though it’s not usual as it requires advanced skills since the bully pretends to be the target and thus sends offensive messages that appear to have originated from the target.
Finally, outing and trickery involves the bully tricking the target into releasing personal information or making statements which the bully later releases to the public through the internet in order to harass the target. This method is usually prevalent among former friends who release secrets and embarrassing photos they used to share and releases them with an aim embarrassing the victims (Galloway, 2007).
Environments of Cyber Bullying
Depending on the technology one is endowed with, there exist several platforms or environments through which cyber bullying occurs and they include:
Instant Messaging (IM)
This platform is similar to the emails except that it is synchronous. Meaning that the two parties are online at the same time and the messages are usually sent back and forth. Most minors prefer using IM programs since they do not charge a cent for their services. As long as you create an account then search for your friend whom you will be chatting with.
The only problem with the IM systems is that although the conversation is between two parties who know each other, the messages can be copied and sent to others who were not the intended recipients and use the information in unethical manner. Disclosing of IM passwords to others can lead to other people masquerading like you and then send abusive messages to other parties. The anonymity of these environments may lead to a party disclosing more information than he or she would not do in person (Bauman, 2007).
The other platform which bullies use is the chat rooms. These are also written conversations but the only exception is that in a chat room, the message is usually not personal as everyone in the chat room at that time can read the message. Just as in IM, chat rooms can also be made private by secluding others for example a person can invite you to a private chat and exclude others. When you agree to enter into their private rooms, there you can share all the information since you believe you have some privacy only for him or her to release the information to the public (Bauman, 2007)
Signs That a Minor Is Suffering From Cyber Bullying
Among the signs that your child or a minor is suffering from cyber bullying include signs of withdrawal. Your child becomes more withdrawn and begins to isolate him or herself from peers. The child may also seem antisocial and at times he can become nervous, upset or even unwilling to go to school due to the fact that if the bully is among his or her classmates, bullying might continue there and the effects will not be that lovely.
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As a parent, if you notice that the child does not spend the same amount of time in the computer as he used to spend earlier you can enquire from him or her. Finally, if the child appears angry, upset or withdrawn after spending time on the computer you can as well investigate the reasons. These are among the signs the parent needs to check on the child to be sure that he is not suffering from cyber bullying (Hindunja & Patchin, 2009)
How to Avoid Cyber Bullying
As a parent or the guardian, always advise your children never to share out their private information such as passwords, addresses or names of relatives with people in the internet as the bullies can capitalize on the information provided and use it to harass a fellow minor. It is always advisable never to share you email addresses to the strangers you meet in the internet and always ensure your kids inform you if they need to share their photos with strangers in the internet.
Make sure that your child understands that online conversations are usually not private and thus inform your kid that those people whom he or she communicates with in other side of the internet can copy print or share what they chat about thus they should always make sure the discussion is always general.
Cyber bullying has been a widespread and a growing concern that affects students and other minors. With the nature of technology advancements, bullies feel immune or protected from the social norms and many opt to behave in uncharacteristically cruel ways. Chat rooms and Instant Messaging are some of the environments bully use when harassing other minors.
As we have noted, cyber bullying leads to harassment and embarrassments and to ensure that the minors are not prone to harassment by cyber bullies, they should always ensure that their conversations remain general and they should never share personal information with strangers.
Bauman, S. (2007). Cyber bullying: a Virtual Menace. Web.
Byron, T. (2009). Virtual Violence: Protecting Children from Cyber bullying. Web.
Galloway, S. J. (2007). Cyber Bullying Methods: The Various Tactics Used To Bully Online. Web.
Hindunja, S., and Patchin, J, W. (2009). Cyber Bullying Warning Signs. Web.