Handling Cyber Bullying
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Handling Cyber Bullying
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Handling Cyber Bullying

Cyber-Bullying generally refers to those acts of bullying that occur in the communication platforms implemented with information technology. It involves intentional act that causes undesirable events onto the victim.

Most distinctively, it involves sending explicit or implicit messages in different formats other than normal text, such as audiovisual material that carries information specific to the recipient.

The person who commits the bullying and the corresponding victim do not necessarily know the real identity of each other. They may just be identified with account names within a discussion forum. The likelihood of keeping anonymous is one of the factors that promote cyber-bullying.

The undesirable events happening onto the victim include a number of negative psychological feeling such depression, anger, annoyance or humiliation. Some cases of suicide are believed to be a result of such bullying.

The effect may also cause damaging result in other areas other than negative psychological feeling. For example, it may create a bad reputation onto the victim within a social platform, and hinder other social activities of the victim.

Some definitions of cyber-bullying include a criterion that the victim should be a teenager or younger. When the victims are adults, the situation is usually described as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking. This is, however, subject to debate as there are difficulties to prove the real age of a cyber identity in the Internet world.

The locations that cyber-bullying usually happen are those communication applications that allow individual to register with an identity and then exchange messages. These could be a pure messaging application such as email. It may also be some other more advanced categories that allow a group of people to perform real time online discussion, such as discussion forums, chatting and blogging.

Example of Incident

The following are some common examples.

Repeatedly sending of electronic messages, like short messages or emails, to the target victim who has already expressed explicit unwillingness to receive.
Sending threats, harassment, sexual related remarks or hate speech to the target victim through emails or during chat room dialog. The messages may also be copied to other recipients simultaneously.
Ganging up on the victim to make the person a subject of ridicule or criticism within cyber communication platforms. An example is in establishing voting / polling activities in a chat-room about typical external appearance of a victim, such as "vote for the fat girl".
Posting open messages with content that invite gossip on the victim. This causes undesirable feeling on the victim and may discourage him/her to join the platform again.
Impersonation: Steal the account of the victim and use it to create undesirable events such as sending of bullying or harassment messages to others. This makes the public wrongly think that the problems are caused by the victim.
Prevention and Protection

The principle in preventing the encountering of cyber-bullying is to avoid being identified. This could include proper protection of personal information, such as avoiding the opening or replying of messages from strangers. It is vital to protect sensitive information such as passwords that should never be disclosed. Posting personal information such as email address and portrait photographs to whatever websites should also avoided.

Equally important is to avoid performing distinctive behaviour whenever in open social environment, like being rude in a discussion forum. Drawing the attention of others will likely increase the chance of becoming a cyber-bullying target.

The following are some guidelines for those who have encountered cyber-bullying.

Do not reply to cyber-bullies, as this may usually encourage more bullying messages being received;
Inform the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone service provider for seeking assistance when applicable;
Do not erase or delete messages from cyber-bullies, as these may be used for evidence later;
Never arrange to meet with someone that has only been contacted online before.

Parents and teachers should also provide guidance to their children, e.g., in teaching them to be skeptical and cautious on the content in the Internet. Some guidelines can be obtained from the "Extended Readings and Other Resources" section.