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Cyber Safety in to ask the Experts

Cyber bullies

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Caitlin saw this on her Web site’s guest book: I hate you everyone hates you…you should just die.

Lisa was angry with her teacher so she called him “gay” to a group at a school chat room.

Carrie was voted the ugliest girl in school on an online polling website.

Whitney got an anonymous email everyday calling her the fattest girl who ever lived.

When Jennifer posted her sixteeth birthday pictures online, someone wrote that they’d rather cut off their arms than touch her.

Dara received an email telling her only the cool girls wear leopard skin pants and she shouldn’t.

When Ali got into a fight with a friend, a group of girls signed onto a site using her name. The group attacked other members and Ali was blamed for the attacks.

Each of these true-life experiences is an example of cyber bullies, using technology to harass, scare, and tease. The scary thing is it’s becoming an epidemic. Hollywood films have heroes standing up to bullies all the time, yet happy endings are harder to find in real life, especially when it comes to cyber bullies. The weapons are not fists; they are instant messages, camera phones, Web sites, chat rooms, text messaging, and Web blogs. Cyber bullies are mobile, anonymous, and don’t stop. Their victims could be the teacher’s pets, those who are physically weak, or those who simply march to their own drumbeat. The nasty rumours spread and the humiliating lies can be destructive.

The statistics tell the story. Eighty percent of teens say they have read or spread gossip online; more than half say they have seen Web sites that made fun of their peers. Yet there seems to be a code of silence—what happens online stays online—leaving those who might help, in school and at home, in the dark.

So what makes people cyber bullies?

Well in cyberworld, they may not be the strongest girls or the most popular. What they all share is a language with words meant to hurt their victim’s self-esteem. Psychologists say it’s either because the cyber bullies feel bad about themselves or because they have been victims of other bullies. Shea, an admitted cyber bully, says, “I picked on Molly first so that no one would pick on me. I say things I could never say in person. Mostly about what she wears or how she looks. Of course, I know it’s not nice to have fun at someone else’s expense, but I love being undercover and in control. My grades are good and my parents don’t have a clue. They’d be so annoyed if they ever found out.”

It takes more courage to go against cyber bullies' violence than to go along with it.

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