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On the last track, we discussed four important factors concerning cyber bullying. These factors are, gender variation, effects of cyberbullying, the anonymity factor, and the impact at school.
On this track, we will discuss two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying. These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.
In talking to teens who have either been victimized by or participated in internet bullying, I have found two central problems common to the issue. As you listen to this track, you might consider if you have observed these two central problems in your practice.
Central Problem #1 - Sexual Nature
As you know, during the early teen years, a fairly common tactic of relational aggression, especially among girls, is to spread rumors about a target peers’ sexual life in order to damage her or his reputation. However, internet bullying can greatly increase the aggressor’s audience, thus increasing the trauma experienced by the victim. Tina, age 14, had an argument with her then-friend Danielle over Tina’s boyfriend. Following the argument, Danielle used the internet to spread rumors to their classmates that Tina was performing oral sex.
Soon, a stranger from a neighboring town began instant messaging Tina, calling her a slut. Tina quickly began having trouble sleeping and long episodes of crying. I advised Tina to make hard copies and saved files of the instant messages and bring them to her parents. Tina’s parents informed the school, and the campus police officer was able to intervene and bring a stop to the bullying.
Central Problem #2 - Perceived Inescapability
Nina, age 15, experienced the perceived inescapability of online bullying. Nina had always been tall for her age, which made her a frequent target of school bullies. Nina, an avid artist, would often escape either to her drawings or to her computer, where she discovered a web site about art where she could chat with peers interested in art. Nina stated, “After I found the site, I finally felt like I belonged and was accepted for the first time.” However, at age 12, Nina got into a disagreement with another girl on the site over an unanswered email. Although Nina tried to make up, the other girl made her the subject of a three-year online bullying campaign.
The other girl and her friends would taunt and ridicule her over email, and sign in to the art site under Nina’s name, where they would launch attacks on other site members that Nina would be blamed for. This tactic caused Nina to lose several friends on the site, and she developed clinical depression. Because of the continued teasing over her height at school, the friends who stuck by her on the art community were her perceived only source of peer support. Eventually, the online tormenting became so bad that Nina took a short break from her community. Fortunately, when she returned, the bullying stopped.
Ethical Decision-Making Strategies
On this track we have discussed two of the central problems inherent to internet bullying. These two problems are, internet bullying is highly sexual, and internet bullying is perceived as inescapable.
On the next track, we will discuss the three steps in the recognizing common issues technique for helping adolescents in an internet bullying crisis. These three steps are convey realistic concern without undue anxiety, delay making final judgments, and develop positive working relationships with everyone.
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