I think that the discussion about cyberbullying is undergoing a tremendous transformation. The idea of cyberbullying was originally a campaign to identify the concept, but now it is almost solely focused on the prevention of bullying in any form.
I recently had a discussion with a group of middle school students about cyberbullying and they had some great questions about what it entailed. They asked questions like: “Can I go to jail for cyberbullying?” and “What is cyberbullying?”
I found through some research that there is an entire web site dedicated to the discovery and definition of cyberbullying called www.cyberbully.org. The site is not a secure site (HTTPS), but it does not ask for any identifying information, so the information is still useful. The site has so much information that it would be impossible for me to list everything here. However, some of the main topics include state legislation that has been passed, or scheduled to be reviewed, in each state, which was a great way for me to answer the questions posed to me by these students. The very nature of cyberbullying makes it a mandatory topic for discussion at school and at home. I had to explain that calling a fellow student a jerk one time would not necessarily be cyberbullying, but to enlist others to jointly and consistently call this student a jerk (or comment on their looks, their clothing, etc.) would be considered a bullying incident according to their state law. I recommended that they discuss this topic with a parent and/or trusted adult to ensure that they are not wandering into illegal activity.
I also went into other cybersecurity issues like not sharing passwords, passcodes, or user ids with other students or other people (other than your parents of course). The idea of protecting the password helps to protect your information, which if in the wrong hands can cause a problem with identity protection causing possible identity theft. It also leaves you open to cyberbullying since an individual can make it seem as if a message is coming from YOUR account when in actuality it is THEIR message but they have access to your account!
When asked about cyberbullying, I told the students that ANYONE can be a cyberbully. You do not need to be stronger, bigger, or smarter, just start a campaign to put the other person down. By showing the other person in a “low light” it makes the bully feel stronger. Protecting your information and ensuring you are aware of what cyberbullying entails can help to prevent you becoming a victim. I urged the student not to focus on the punishment, but to be aware of what they were doing online and stop any online action that could be taken as bullying. I also gave them the cyberbully.org web site. In my opinion, that site is one of the best I have seen.
On thing I did not tell them — if you are being bullied, block or defriend these individuals. No reaction from you means that their messages are meaningless.
Talk to your children (texting does not count).
Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (LOVE)