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Cyberbullying – What is it?

As cyberbullying has been making the news again lately, we decided to get an expert to write a guide to it. Lucie Corcoran, who has studied cyberbullying, was kind enough to offer her help and we will be featuring her articles through out the month:

Leanne Wolfe from Co. Cork took her life in March of 2007 just two weeks after her 18th birthday. Leanne had suffered torment from bullies which included mental, physical and cyber abuse. Leanne had received threatening text messages just before she died.

Ryan Halligan from the US also took his own life after a period of cyberbullying. Ryan received abusive instant messages which were often threatening and insulting. His Dad describes him as “a gentle, very sensitive soul.” Ryan was taunted about being gay. He was also tricked into revealing personal details about himself online to a girl he liked at school. She then forwarded this information to others via instant messaging.

Meagan Meier died by suicide following a period of cyber victimisation. The 13 year old became involved in a relationship with a boy called Josh Evans whom she had met on MySpace. In reality this boy did not exist but was in fact an online character created by a group of cyberbullies (including a parent of a girl Megan had fallen out with).  Megan was traumatised when Josh suddenly broke off their relationship with a string of nasty messages suggesting that the “world would be a better place without her.”

David Knight of Canada also suffered at the hands of cyberbullies when a web page was created entitled “Welcome to the Page That Makes Fun of David Knight.” This webpage contained comments from classmates which were degrading to David. David eventually left school and finished his final year at home.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when somebody uses electronic communication such as the Internet or a mobile phone to bully someone. This can involve sending threats, creating rumours or insulting someone via online communication. Cyberbullies target people using many different methods including; websites, instant messaging, emails, chat rooms, texts, and phone calls. Victims of cyber bullying sometimes report that emails or instant messages they sent in private are forwarded on for many other people to see. Other times humiliating pictures or video clips are posted online.

Cyberbullying is a particularly nasty form of abuse because it can reach a very large audience (literally millions of people) and can follow a person everywhere at every moment of the day. Unlike traditional bullying there is no escaping a text message or email. A lot of those who have experienced cyberbullying also report that it is unnerving because cyberbullies can hide behind a phone number or username. It can be very frightening to receive an anonymous threat.

Experts believe that cyber bullying can be very damaging to victims’ mental wellbeing. In various studies victims have admitted that the abuse they received made them feel angry, sad, hurt, anxious, afraid, stressed, embarrassed, upset, depressed, and suspicious of others. Cyberbullying can be even more distressing than face to face bullying.

In Ireland recent studies have revealed that online bullying is a common problem in secondary schools.  Upcoming blogs will discuss the types of people who bully or are targeted online and also how to protect yourself online.

Lucie will be back with another blog soon, but in the mean time see  cyberbullying, which has links to resources in Ireland.

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