Stopping Cyber Bullies
Sep 7, 2004
A CBS 2 Special Report

NEW YORK (CBS) More than half of fourth to eighth grade student say they have been bullied online.

Logging on to her computer became a frightening experience for high school student Jennifer. "I got a weird instant message from a screen name I didn't recognize. He would just make comments about my body on the field, dancing in a pep rally, so that told me that it was someone that had to go to my school."

Jennifer became the victim of a cyber bully. She's so afraid, we can't reveal her identiy but a recent survey shows it's an exploding problem, with harassers e-mailing mean messages, posting cruel comments on Web sites and even taunting via text messages.

"Fifty-seven percent of the students in fourth to eighth grade said that someone had said mean or hurtful things to them online, with 13% saying that it occurred quite regularly," says Nancy Willard from the Center For Safe And Responsible Internet Use.

Experts say cyber assaults are often meaner than face-to-face attacks because bullies can remain anonymous.

Vericept Corporation monitors computer communication for schools nationwide.

"We have examples of students threatening other students in instant messaging saying that they're going to beat them to a pulp with a baseball bat," explains Mike Reagan.

Cyber bullies can type their terror at school, home and virtually anywhere.

Dr. Ted Feinberg from the National Association of School Psychologists says the results can be devastating. "We can have youngsters who have been bullied who have had no relief who consider suicide."

The U.S. Department of Education believes educators must take a tough stand now. "One of the roles for schools is to establish policies, which set out what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior," says Bill Modzeleski from the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.

No matter what schools do, experts agree parents need to get involved, checking chat rooms and looking for online diaries called Web logs or blogs.

If a problem is detected, Willard says "One way to stop it is to file a complaint with the Web site host or the Internet service provider and get the material removed."

Plus, always keep a record of the messages.

"They should be getting printed copies of these offending messages, so that they can share them with either legal council or with the police or with the school," Dr. Feinberg recommends.

It didn't take legal action to stop Jennifer's bully. Eventually, a friend revealed his identity, and her school took action. But Jennifer still had to face him everyday in the halls. "He would not look at me in the eye and I didn't want to look him in the eye."

If a cyber bully is harassing your child, you can block emails and instant messages from that specific screen name. But be aware, bullies can easily change names. If harassment continues, contact your Internet service provider.

Other resources
Center For Safe And Responsible Internet Use