Fourteen-year-old Tricia knows what it feels like to get bullied over the Internet.
“I went to check my e-mail and found that I had 300 e-mails saying that I was a whore and everything,” she says, “It was scary for a while, because if a lot of people did think that about me I was like ‘oh my gosh’.”
According to a survey of over 1,200 14 to 24 year olds by the Associated Press and MTV, 50 percent have been harassed online or by text messages.
For this story, a random group of middle school kids were asked how many of them had said mean things about someone else online, and almost all of them raised their hand.
“I have to admit I have said some mean things about people online. It’s really tempting but it’s completely wrong,” says 14-year-old Annellise.
It’s tempting, experts say, because teens have a strong desire to fit in,
So ganging up in a chat room, explains clinical psychologist Joanne Max, “becomes a way that they can feel that sense of social connectedness and acceptance, by jumping on the bandwagon.”
And because the bullying happens in cyberspace, they don’t see the pain they cause. “They don’t necessarily think about the impact of what they’re doing and saying on the victim,” says Dr. Max.
“It’s still with me, when I get online, I always think about it,” says Tricia.
“And the cyberbullying doesn’t stop. It often grows and one comment leads to another and you don’t know when it’s going to come back,” says Dr. Max.
Experts say the way to prevent bullying both on the playground and online is a lesson that’s not easy to teach but it’s crucial. It’s called empathy.
What Do You Think?
- Has someone ever posted something online about you? How did that make you feel?
- Have you ever posted something (a comment, a photo) about someone else? Were you able to see their reaction? Were you able to perceive any reaction? How do we react to what we see online?
- Social networks do provide an efficient means of communicating but at what cost? Is everyone included? Do you think they are more helpful or harmful in day-to-day communication with your friends? Why?
- Are there rules regarding cyberbullying at your school? In your home? Do you think this is important? Why or why not? What are the consequences?
According to an Associated Press/MTV survey of more than 1,200 14- to 24-year-olds, 50 percent have been harassed online or by text messages. It’s time for adults and kids to understand cyberbullying’s impact and to learn what not to “say” and post online.