by Jim Hague, CEO, CrystalDI Web Design (www.crystaldi.com)
How are you going to stop cyber bullying? I read many articles, newspapers, and talk shows where so-called experts are telling us all there is now a war against cyber bullying and how we can win that war?
Bullying has been happening since the beginning of time and in all cultures and nations. A war against cyber bullying will be as successful as the war against drugs.
It’s a sad but realistic fact that cyber bullying exists and is spreading as fast as technology itself. Cyber bullying is not limited to the computer, but spreads across the social networking sites, chat rooms, and text messaging through handheld devices. Because of the internet, people (especially the younger generation) are prone to this form of harassment 24 hours a day, everyday!
There were three tragedies that drew national attention:
Megan Meier hung herself after what she thought was an MySpace romance with a boy named Josh Evans. Josh, however, never existed. He was merely a creation used to put shame, guilt, and hurt Megan by a 50 year-old neighbor Lori Drew.
Megan, who had a history depression and attention deficit disorder, thought she was in a real-life romance despite never having physically met Josh. At first it all seemed like a dream. Then Lori Drew made her character turn against Megan and eventually shutting off all communications. This devastated Megan enough to take care her own life.
Phoebe Prince suffered months of bullying in the hands of at least six other teenagers.
After a brief fling with a football player, several jealous classmates targeted her. Her being bullied was not limited to the Internet, but also physical abuse, which involved throwing objects as she walked home from school. School officials, parents, and even some classmates were aware that she was bullied almost daily. Phoebe had nowhere to turn. She eventually hung herself on a stairwell.
Tyler Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University who jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge. This occurred after his homosexual encounter with another male student was video streamed over the Internet without Clementi’s knowledge. In the same month, Asher Brown, 13, Billy Lucas, 15, Raymond Chase, 19, and Seth Walsh, 13, committed suicide, in each case allegedly due to being taunted about their homosexuality.
The Internet offers a second chance for people from a world they perceive as having rejected them. During the 90s, the chat rooms of American Online (AOL) were the popular form of social networking. It was not uncommon for users to spend hours behind the keyboard to chat away. People who found it challenging to find dates or friends in the real world found acceptance on AOL.
The Internet allows for the freedom to create any world we want. Often, we recreate ourselves. We rarely use our real names, instead we transform into our screen names. On AOL, I was online chatting with strangers around the world. I no longer was Jim Hague. I become jimh3768.
Those of low-self esteem, the world of social media, chat rooms, and instant messaging becomes the other life. One where they are treated the way they want to be treated.
So if the online world is trashed, as the case of Megan, Phoebe, and Tyler, the loss cuts deep. They became victims of two worlds with no place to turn. Their depression runs deeper and their fears become an emergency. For Megan, Phoebe, Tyler, and many others, their only way out was death.
Cyber bulling is easy especially for those who fear confrontation in real life. Suddenly a weak person emerges into a tough talking thug online. In addition, peers are so well connected with online groups that rumors and hate speech can be spread in seconds. Teenagers are more offended when called names than older age groups. So if someone is called a ‘slut’ and its spread virally, the effects can be traumatic.
Remember on one occasion when I was chatting on AOL, I wrote something that offended another member. Within seconds, everyone hurled insults at me. I felt smothered, taunted, my stomach churned. They were not punching me nor yelling. They were typing words! Yet I felt as I was being attacked! I logged off feeling like I have just been violated.
Now I realize that I gave enough power to my online world that my brain did not know the difference between reality and a chat room.
The Secret is not to stop the bullying, but to empower the victim. A bully is only as powerful as the intended victim allows. Let’s take a game of catch. In order for the game to be played, one person has to throw the ball and another has to catch it. If one of the players does not catch the ball and walks away, the game is over. If the victim does not catch the insults by the bully, the game is over.
The Buddha found himself once before a man who was hurling insults at him. Buddha was unmoved, he simply turned to the man and said, “May I ask you a question?” The man responded with “Well, what?” Buddha said, “If someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it to whom then does it belong?” The man said, “Then it belongs to the person who offered it”. Buddha smiled, “That is correct. So if I decline to accept your abuse does it not then still belong to you?” The man was speechless and walked away.
A bully is a suppressed being. They often come from unhappy homes where they get little or no attention. Bullying offers them the attention they crave. Rarely does a bully go after confident peers because ‘water seeks it’s own level.’ A bully, with hidden low-esteem issues, will go after another with low self-esteem. Trying to bully a person with confidence can result in rejection and a bully is too sensitive for that. Reaction such as fear and being intimidated is fuel for the bully to keep harassing.
Ignore the bully. Do not accept their insults like the Buddha did. This tactic will take the time to time to take effect. Eventually, bullies will sub-consciously realize that their taunting is having no result. So thus, they go find another victim.
To ignore a bully takes strength, awareness, and patience. What an amazing way to build character.
If you are an adult witnessing a child being bullied, I suggest strengthening the victim.
A person being bullied needs only an ounce of self-esteem to overcome the most difficult situations. Be a friend to the victim. Offer encouragement. A victim feels it is them again the world. Knowing that they have a friend to turn to can save a life.
Be sure to inform school officials where the bullying is happening. Never ever tell the victim that they are ‘not’ being bullied or that they are wrong for feeling scared. Their feelings and perceptions must to be respected.
If you are a teenager all I can say is that I fully understand. I’ve been bullied in my life. Know that you are not alone and that you are not worthless. Do not seek revenge and do not wish ill will. The best revenge is to live a productive life. Set goals for yourself and find new friends (live, not online).
Regarding those bullies I had to deal with. Well, it’s been well over 20 years. We are all facebook friends now. It’s get better. Hang in there.