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Cyberbullying

Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 last Sept. 6, requiring all elementary and secondary schools
to adopt policies to prevent and address bullying in their institutions.
The law defines bullying as any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a
written, verbal or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof,
directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in
reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile
environment at school for the other students.
The act of bullying also involves infringing on the rights of other students at school or
materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly preparation of a
school.
Cause of cyberbullying
Many parents of teenage bullies ask themselves how their offspring could be capable of
such abusive behaviors. They always want to know if the parents, the teenager, society or
biology are to blame. There are various underlying causes to a bullys behavior, often rooted in
the anxiety of being adolescent, but at other times this behavior can spring from a traumatic
experience, pressure from friends, faulty parenting styles, or any intricate combination of these
dynamics. Bullying is done in most cases to increase feeling of personal power of the person
doing the bullying. The need for the reassurance for personal abilities that makes degrading
someone else such an easy fix.
The moment a child can start feeling like a big shot without having to do a lot to get there
or deal with any negative consequences. Being seen as the top dog is something that will attract
friends to become part of the bullying group. These peer groups will then also start to do the
bullying as a group which ever minority they seems fit. The gain of power is easy to get used to.
This will then become the start of a group dynamic, that will set one group of children against a
other group. This makes it not always easy to recognize from the outside. Just as it is not easy to
bring up by the child, cause the lose of being part of that peer group is something they cant
emotionally unbearable.
Hormones
Hormones play an integral role in the act of bullying. Chemical changes in the youths brain as
they continue to grow and develop contribute greatly to all acting out behaviors. Imbalances in
hormone levels during this time can cause surprisingly erratic and dominating behavior, even
from children who never behaved in this way before. People who experience hormonal
imbalances often describe intense feelings of turmoil and isolation. These imbalances will often
eventually pass as the chaos of the teen years wanes, unless there is an underlying chemical
problem.
Emotions
Emotions are directly related to hormonal dynamics, though hormones are not solely responsible
for distressed emotions. Many things could cause a teen to experience negative emotions and

their hormones often serve to amplify them, like adding gasoline to a fire that is already burning.
Romantic problems, feelings of alienation, parental neglect or abuse can all lead a teen to feel out
of control. This is very confusing indeed and many have described feeling as if they were out of
control. To baffled and upset teenagers bullying can seem like the only way to take back control
of a chaotic world and master their swirling emotions, and this method can work for a short time.
But the relief that springs from acting out against another is not sustainable. Eventually the
teenager will have to come to terms with their emotional world, whether through their own
means or through the guidance of their elders, talk and behavior therapy.
Self esteem
Self esteem issues can also contribute to bullying dynamics. For teenagers bullying can seem like
an easy solution to low self esteem. This is not a conscious decision, but an underlying desire to
undercut others to make themselves feel more powerful. For example, a teenager may feel over
weight, alienated, and self conscious. If they target an overweight or unpopular person to degrade
in front of people, in their minds they are distracting others from their own perceived faults and
shortcomings. For teenagers bullying can make them feel powerful where they would otherwise
feel threatened or weak.
Acting out abuse
Sometimes bullying behavior can be a direct result of abuse the bully is sustaining or witnessing
at home. If a teenager feels consistently dominated by their parents or caregivers, they may
attempt to act out that domination on their peers. This is either because domination was
normalized in their home and they perceive the destructive behavior as normal, or they are
attempting to regain control where their caregiver has left them powerless. Either way, teachers
have a responsibility to look out for the early warning signs in adolescents.

Effects of Cyberbullying
Victims of cyberbullying may experience many of the same effects as children who are bullied in
person, such as a drop in grades, low self-esteem, a change in interests, or depression. However
cyberbullying can seem more extreme to its victims because of several factors:

It occurs in the child's home. Being bullied at home can take away the place children feel
most safe.

It can be harsher. Often kids say things online that they wouldn't say in person, mainly
because they can't see the other person's reaction.

It can be far reaching. Kids can send emails making fun of someone to their entire class
or school with a few clicks, or post them on a website for the whole world to see.

It can be anonymous. Cyberbullies often hide behind screen names and email addresses
that don't identify who they are. Not knowing who is responsible for bullying messages
can add to a victim's insecurity.

It may seem inescapable. It may seem easy to get away from a cyberbully by just getting
offline, but for some kids not going online takes away one of the major places they
socialize.

Cyberbullying can be a complicated issue, especially for adults who are not as familiar with
using the Internet, instant messenger, or chat rooms as kids. But like more typical forms of
bullying, it can be prevented when kids know how to protect themselves and parents are
available to help.
Victims of cyberbullying
His name was Steven. He was 13 years old and six years ago, he hung himself in his bedroom
closet after being tormented by bullies. Last week, his father reached out to me after reading my
HuffPost article,"Bullying: The Really Big Problem Behind the Really Big Problem" about
National Bullying Prevention Month and self-bullying. In a horrible twist of irony, last week also
marked the loss of another teen. 15-year-old Amanda Todd took her life after years of relentless
bullying. Just last month, she had uploaded a nine-minute video to YouTube entitled Amanda
Todd's Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self-Harm. It's a tragic reality that there have been
so many suicides attributed to bullying that we now have a word to describe it: bullycide.
This is Steven's story. The story of a life that ended way too soon. It's the story of Steven's
parents and the unfathomable pain they have had to endure. It's a story that hopes to honor
Steven, Amanda and all the other victims of senseless bullying while trying to bring awareness
and change to the greatest youth epidemic of our time.
Steven was a sweet, sensitive and artistic kid. He adored his older sister and he loved
skateboarding, baseball, music and his dog, Finster. He also happened to be a little awkward. He
was a smallish kid who was different and just didn't quite fit in. To some extent he had always
been the target of teasing, but it was in middle school at the beginning of 7th grade when the
bullying escalated to a level Steven could no longer face. That day, his tormentors set him on fire
with a lighter and an aerosol can of body spray. They recorded their attack on a cell phone and
posted it on the Internet. Later that evening while his mom was getting dinner ready, Steven took
his own life.
It had been about a month since Mike and Pam Urry, Steven's parents, had become aware of the
severity of the bullying. They had met with school officials, filed police reports and had made
plans to remove Steven from his school. Mike says, "We just found out too late, or maybe we
didn't act fast enough, I don't know. The teachers and staff had no plan, no procedure in place to
identify and stop the abuse."
It's a story we hear all too often. Tragically, many people knew what was going on, including
many of Steven's fellow students. One of the bystanders wrote about her guilt and shame on her
blog:
We all knew what he went through. We knew who beat him up. We knew who locked him in a
cupboard. We knew who had held his head under water in a sink. So why hadn't we told anyone?
We were stupid. And we expected somebody else to do something about it. I wish I could
apologize to Steven. No, I never bullied him up front, but if you're not part of the solution, you're
part of the problem.

It was Steven's mom who found him after he had hung himself when she went to tell him to wash
up for dinner. Mike was at work and a police officer was sent to pick him up and take him to the
hospital. Not knowing what had happened, he was escorted to a private room and "I instantly felt
my blood run cold," he said. Pam was hysterical, crying convulsively and shaking her head
violently as if to refuse what she was hearing. Mike says, "It was a tidal wave of pain and panic.
Our boy had taken his own life. My son was gone. Our beautiful boy was just... gone."

Mike says he spent that day in a state of "massive emotional trauma." He doesn't remember very
much of those first few days, but what he does remember haunts him to this day. "It's just one
long nightmare I keep having. Seeing my son in the morgue, on a slab," he says. "I can still see
the ligature marks around his neck." He can also still recall with crystal clarity the scream Pam
let out as she awoke the day after Steven's death and remembered what happened. It's a horror no
parent should ever have to endure.
"Preparing our son's funeral was beyond surreal," says Mike. Pam read her letter to Steven to the
packed chapel. "It was the most profoundly perfect and beautiful message from a mother to her
child we had ever heard." Pam's father had dug and prepared Steven's grave and Mike lowered
the urn into the ground with his own hands. "My last act as Steven's father."
It has been almost six years now since they experienced the unthinkable act of burying their
child, but tragically, it's stories like Amanda Todd's from just last week that can trigger an
avalanche of emotion. "The power of these triggers to propel me right back to the emotional
moment of Steven's death is overwhelming, like nothing I've ever experienced," says Mike. "It's
like the six years since never happened, like it's December 2006 all over again."
In Part 2 of this story we'll hear how Steven's parents endured the pain and grief after Steven's
death and how the cruel act of their son's bully has become their own personal trauma. We'll also
hear how Mike has channeled his pain into an organization called His Name Was Steven to help
prevent other children and teens from suffering at the hands of bullies as his son did and prevent
other parents from experiencing the horror they have.
This is Steven's story. But for Steven, Amanda and all the other children and teens who have
suffered, let's make it OUR story. Let's make this a story to awaken us to the reality of this great
epidemic. Let's make it a call and an outcry for change.
Solutions to prevent cyberbullying
Experts suggest some simple steps that school administration can take to respond appropriately
to cyberbullying. The steps are:
__Develop clear rules and policies to prohibit the use of school technologies to bully others.
__Educate students and staff members about what types of behavior constitute cyber bullying
and how the school district's policies apply to them.
__Provide adequate supervision and monitoring of student use of technology.
__Establish systems for reporting cyber bullying or misuse of technology.
__Establish effective responses to reports of cyber bullying.

In addition we recommend that you speak with your district or school attorney, and your state
attorney general to get a clear understanding of where your authority starts and stops over the
matter of cyber bullying.
Steps that must implement by your school or district taking to respond to cyberbullying:

Building positive digital citizenship. Offer fun, interactive resources such as "Be Seen"
by Web Wise Kids.

Increasing staff and student understanding of online privacy, ethical behavior, digital
footprints, and not-so-anonymous, virtual lives. Then, teach them to be astute observers.

Supporting behavioral changes through curriculum integration.

Emphasizing the balance between freedom of expression and individual rights to safety,
privacy and protection from harm, by using role-playing situations, teaching strategies, and
instilling trust.

Discuss the difference between reporting on cyberbullying vs. snitching or tattling.


Reporting is done to stop unwanted behavior; snitching or tattling on someone is done to get the
other person in trouble for something that really does not impact the "tattler."

Implementing clear policies consistently using appropriate rewards/consequences for


effective, immediate impact.

Adopting the latest technology available to thwart bully/cyber bullying behaviors and
make useful technological options available to every student to prevent, respond to, and report
bullying incidents.
There are many wonderful anti-bullying programs such as Olweus, PBIS and Steps-to-Respect
that are designed to create a positive school climate in which negative behaviors are reduced and
replaced with positive behaviors. These programs also stress the importance of creating a climate
of trust, one in which students feel comfortable coming forward for help.
Anonymous bullying reporting solutions like the CyberBully Hotline should serve to compliment
these programs. We created the program as a means to combat reporting fear. Schools should
strive to create a climate in which students feel comfortable reporting face to face, but certain
situations will be better served by an anonymous reporting system.
Our program's relevancy in today's text-based communications atmosphere allows students to
send text and voice messages from where they spend most of their time these days - from their
mobile phones. Students are more comfortable texting than they are talking and our program
leverages that comfort to increase the likelihood of timelier reporting. Students can text
anonymous reports, which are delivered immediately and simultaneously to a school official's
email and mobile device and to their CyberBully Hotline user account where messages can be
viewed and archived. This unique feature allows for an anonymous two-way dialog between
sender and receiver completing a complete communication cycle.