Once upon a time we worried about being bullied on the play ground. We worried about other kids who might call us names and harass us. Passing notes and spreading rumors were a common form of bullying, as well. With more and more kids using the internet these days, it has become one more way for bullying to occur, and possibly the most dangerous.
The internet undoubtedly makes people bolder, and why not? When you can hide behind a screen, it’s easier to let your guard down and let go of your inhibitions. For students today, there also aren’t teachers monitoring their behavior online like they are in school, so there’s virtually very little the school can do about it other than hope that the parents are keeping an eye on their children’s internet usage.
Bullying can occur in several ways online, the first of which is going to be on your social networking sites – most commonly MySpace and Facebook. There are plenty of teachers who get onto MySpace and look up their students, only to see messages posted that are of a negative nature and directed towards another student. This helps us to know what’s going on in school, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s becoming more common, also, for students to create an almost reverse-tribute page, devoted to their dislike of another student or group of students.
The second most common form of online bullying is through chat clients, such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Students will harass others through IMs or emails. Sometimes they will invite someone into a chat room, only to gang up on them when they’re in there.
Going along with these two methods of harassment and bullying, the internet is also an avenue wide open to spreading gossip and rumors. IMs and social networking messages get around, and problems continue that way, as well.
While it’s hard, as teachers, to keep tabs on what students are doing on the internet, we should make it a point to talk to them about the problem of internet bullying and give them options of what to do if they are being bullied online. This is something that each school would have to deal with differently, but the problem is definitely on the rise and should not be ignored.