Cyber-Bullying: Threat and Intimidation Online

By: Zuske Sagara

Ahh...the Internet...the amazing portal to a vast world of information, entertainment, and everything else in between. Internet technology has revolutionized the way we work, play, learn, and communicate. What started out as an experiment in a Harvard University laboratory is now one of the primary means by which people in the 21st century do business, exchange information, and relate with other people. Aside from its use as a research tool, the World Wide Web provides other services such as email, instant messaging, file sharing, online forums, and blogging. As a technology, it has made an impact on the social structure and behavior. As an example, there now actual cases of people who met online and later got married.

But even the Internet is not immune from misuse or abuse. Like other inventions of man, it too has been subjected to various forms of wrong application. One good example is cyber-bullying, a term that refers to bullying and harassment by use of electronic devices. Cyber-bullying and harassment is actually done through e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, mobile phones, text messaging, and other electronic media.

In a survey done by Pew Internet and American Life, it was found out that at least 33% of teenagers had been the victim of some form of cyber-bullying. These acts involved sexual harassment, threats of harm, name-calling, and other harmful and unwanted acts.

Online bullies use their computer and Internet skills to shock, intimidate, insult, and control unsuspecting online users. These acts of intimidation cause embarrassment, fear, stress, and anxiety. Some people who have become victims of online harassment also suffer from depression. The depression has caused many of these victims to either retreat in isolation or seek revenge through their own brand of harassment.

Since surfing the Web can be done outside of school or out of the watchful eyes of teachers and parents, many young people need to be re-educated about “Web Safety.” School authorities, guardians, and parents must help young people and other individuals who use the Internet to learn the following Web Safety Measures:

· Don't use your real name every time you sign up for a web service;
· Don't give personal information such as your gender, age, address, school etc.;
· Don't send photos or post photos on the Internet;
· As much as possible, avoid entering chat rooms. Most people who are in the chat rooms are not truthful with their profiles or identities. They are not who they say they are.
· Keep a copy of the offending email. You may need the copy if you decide to take legal action about it.
· Never easily agree to meet with anyone that you just met online.

One of the worst things that can happen to a victim of online harassment or cyber-bullying is to be neglected. If a victim feels that he or she does not have anyone to go to for help, that person may fall in a deeper state of depression. Much worse, the victim could even develop a serious anxiety disorder, which, in turn, might lead to suicide.

It will take the joint effort of school authorities, parents, and the community as a whole to stop cyber-bullying. Everybody must take part in preventing the cyber-bullies from using one of the world's most important inventions into a cyber-tool for threat and intimidation.

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