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Be Aware! Beware of Cyber-bullies
By Dr. Uma Gupta
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This article is the first in a series of articles about cyber-bullying and the devastating impact it has on its victims. The purpose is to alert parents about a growing menace called cyber-bullying, describe cyber bullying, and the tools used by bullies to attack children as well as teens on the Internet. Future articles will outline measures that parents can take to prevent cyber bullying and will provide parents with ideas and solutions to protect children if their children were to become the victim of cyber bullying or participate in cyber-bullying themselves.  

Imagine for a moment that you open the door to your home and warmly welcome a known predator into your house. You introduce your children to this predator and even let them spend many hours alone with the predator. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? But bullies on the Internet are just that: They are silent predators that prey on children, abuse, embarrass, humiliate, and threaten them, and destroy the self-esteem and peace of mind of children, while parents falsely believe that their child is doing homework or emailing on the Internet. Today the Internet, cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging, chat rooms, and blogs have become ubiquitous in our lives. In the name of emerging technologies, we embrace these tools without fully understanding that these tools have the potential to damage and hurt our children. As  parents, each of us has an obligation to make sure that creative, innovative, and useful digital tools do not become silent predators in our homes, predatory tools that attack and destroy the self-worth of our children. The Internet is a double-edged sword and cyber bullies are on the wrong side of this sword! Cyber-bullies are predators and parents should watch closely for the presence of cyber-bullies in their children's lives.  

 A cyber-bully is one who uses digital media to accomplish the same goals as a bully in the school back yard which is to humiliate, threaten, ridicule, embarrass, and relentlessly and unfairly attack another individual or individuals with the intent to make the victim or victims submit and surrender to the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the bully or bullies The primary difference is a cyber-bully relies on digital tools and achieves a far great impact in a shorter span of time with a global audience that is available 24/7.  

The intent of cyber-bullying is malicious, the goal is extensive destruction, the strategy is repetitive attacks, and the identity of the bully is often anonymous. Try battling enemies when you don't know who they are, where they are located, when they will attack, how they will attack, or even why they are attacking you as the world watches and sometimes even participates in these attacks.  The weapons of cyber bullies are lies, slander, name-calling, threats, sharing private and confidential information, and destruction of one's identity and self-esteem, to name a few. Ironically, sometimes a cyber-bully engages in these activities just for fun!  

It is easy to think that your child will escape from cyber-bullies. It is easy to believe that your child will never succumb to cyber-bullying. The statistics, however, are quite startling and point to the high risk of even "normal" children being cyber bullied. The National Crime Prevention Council surveyed teenagers ages 13 to 17 and found that in 2007 nearly 43% had been cyber-bullied in one form or the other. Today the statistics are even more staggering pointing to a marked increase in cyber-bullying all over the world. Incidents of cyber-bullying are higher among girls, and in particular, children who stand out for any reason are more likely to be bullied. These "differences" include weight, height, skin color, deformities, speech challenges, race, economic status, physical marks or scars, or anything that draws attention to the student. In the next article, I will provide true examples of cyber-bullying and show how vulnerable children are even in the comfort and safety of their own home.

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