Worldwide Emergence of High-Tech as a Weapon
Brent Badiuk, who graciously gave permission to
have this article, originally published in the University
of Winnipeg Education Students' ANTHOLOGY '06,
bullying has been a problem in schools for generations, the
emergence of high technology has changed bullying tactics,
perpetrator demographics, and witnesses. Cell phones,
the Internet, and instant messaging may be the new weapons rather
than face-to-face physical and verbal intimidation. Numerous
studies have been conducted on traditional bullying, but, as
yet, not on what are referred to as “cyberbullying.” In
this paper I will briefly document some data from research
on the repercussions of traditional bullying. Some of
the resources used locally and internationally that help solve
the bullying program will be cited. I will then explain
the phenomenon of cyberbullying and how it differs from traditional
bullying. I will also state ways
to combat this new and increasing threat.
in schools has recently become a much discussed topic in Manitoba. The
questionable handling of a bullying situation in a Langruth,
Manitoba school and the suicide of a teenage bullying victim
in Roblin were high profile news items. The 2005
school massacre in neighbouring Red Lake, Minnesota, made
headlines here at home, nation-wide, and globally. One
of the issues behind the violence in Red Lake was the previous
harassment of the perpetrator by his peers (Davey & Wilgoren,
Dan Olweus has stated that, “bullying poisons the educational
environment and affects the learning of every child” (qtd.
in Starr, 2003, para. 1). When Olweus began studying school
bullying in the early 1970’s,
he lamented the fact that, while bullying was an old phenomenon,
little research had been done in areas such as prevalence, characteristics
of pupils involved, and the contributing factors of schools with
this problem (Olweus, 1978).
later, one can access research on bullying from various perspectives.
Some remarkable statistics have come to light from this research:
* Bullying occurs once every seven minutes
* Episodes are brief, on average, lasting roughly 37 seconds
* Schools are a prime location for bullying
* Most victims are unlikely to report it
* The emotional scars from bullying can last a lifetime
* Primary age children who were labeled as bullies by their
peers required more support as adults from government agencies,
had more court convictions, more alcoholism, more antisocial
personality disorders, and used more mental health services
than other children.
* By age 24, 60% of identified bullies have a criminal conviction
* Many adults don’t know how to intervene in bullying situations,
therefore bullying is often overlooked
* Only 25% of students report that teachers intervene in bullying
situations, while 71% of teachers believe they always intervene.
(Lajoie, McLellan, & Seddon, 2001, p.xi).
continuous research at the University of Bergen in Norway led
Olweus to develop the Core Program Against Bullying and Antisocial
Behavior, which is now being used in significant numbers of
schools in North America (www.uib.no, 2002, para. 5) as well
as in Norway, England, and Germany (Starr, 2003, para. 2).
In Manitoba, a coalition of various provincial government agencies,
branches of law enforcement, schools, and professional organizations
Schools Manitoba to address issues regarding
community and school safety. Their mandate is to
provide resources and assistance to community groups, schools
and students to ensure public safety (safeschoolsmanitoba.ca, 2005, paras.
4-5). As well, the Winnipeg School Division has
developed the Pupil Services Department.
This department has developed anti-bullying workshops for
teachers – one
which I have attended
– and acts as children’s advocate in helping them manage
emotional, social, and cognitive problems, including bullying
(wsd1.org, 2003, Introduction).
It is obvious
that the subject of bullying now receives greater consideration
by school administrators and teachers. However, with
the proliferation of high technology, new and more insidious
methods of bullying have emerged. These new methods are known
who has been described as “one of the foremost experts” (Mitchell,
2004, para. 4) on cyberbullying, clearly defines the behavior: Cyberbullying
involves the use of information and communication technologies
such as e-mail, cellular phone and pager text messages, instant
messaging, defamatory personal web sites, and defamatory
online personal polling web sites, to support deliberate, repeated,
and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended
to harm others. (Belsey, 2005, para. 1)
of Calgary released a pioneering Canadian study on cyberbullying
in 2005. Students
in two middle schools were surveyed; one school was
in a middle-class area and the other was in a poorer
neighbourhood. Both schools are involved in
a provincial project integrating educational technology.
Of the 177 students surveyed, 53% knew of someone
being cyberbullied, 25% described themselves as victims
of cyberbullying, and 15% admitted to participating
in cyberbullying activities. The methods used
as reported by the victims were identified as 23%
by e-mail only; 36% in chat rooms only; and 41% by
more than one source. While
32% of the victims identified the perpetrators as
schoolmates, 41% had no knowledge of who was cyberbullying
them (Schmidt, 2005).
is world-wide. An
appalling and frightening ferocity is shown by
the perpetrators. The
consequences of some of these actions have been
devastating and deadly. A teenage girl in Atlanta described
receiving approximately 300 e-mails sent anonymously;
all condemned her as a
“whore” (cbsnews.com, 2005, para. 5). Three years
ago, the BBC reported the results of a survey solicited
by a children’s charity. It showed that 16% of the 856 people
surveyed aged 11 to 19 had received threatening
or bullying text messages (news.bbc.co.uk, 2002, paras. 1-3). In
Japan, an obese young male unknowingly had pictures taken of him while
changing in a school locker area by a cell phone wielding classmate.
These photos were posted on-line and forwarded to other classmates (Giannetti
& Sagarese, 2005, para. 3).
technology can intensify traditional schoolyard bullying. In
2005, a schoolyard fight in Saskatoon between three teenage
girls was recorded on a cell phone. A
thirty-second clip of the fight was then posted
on the Internet. A Saskatoon policeman interviewed
by CTV News explained that using cell phones
to entice a large crowd to watch a potential
fight made the odds of defusing the situation
slim as no one wants to lose face in front of
a large audience. He also
said that the possibility of adding weapons to the mix is a
worrisome and distinct possibility as a face saving measure in
such incidents (ctv.ca, 2005, paras. 2-11).
torment via instant messaging led 13-year-old Ryan Halligan
of Vermont to commit suicide in October 2003.
Bullied at school as well as on-line, Halligan thought
suicide a way to get back at those who made
his life miserable. When he typed the message, “Tonight’s
the night” to
his persecutors, one typed back, “It’s
about time.” Ryan Halligan’s
father, an IBM manager who assembled his own
computers, laid down ground rules and thought
he knew the risks of letting his son have his
own private, personal computer. Tragically,
he was wrong. Only after his
son’s death was he able to realize the
scope of his son’s
troubles by logging on to Ryan’s computer.
Ryan had saved three months worth of messages
and links that detailed the growing agony that
led to his death (Pappas, 2005, paras.1-16).
are known to create web sites or on-line
journals known as “blogs” to
abuse their victims visually or verbally.
In 2002, the CBC National News reported the plight
of a teenage boy living near Burlington,
Ontario named David Knight. He was unaware that
a defamatory web site about him had been
created; it was months before someone told him of its
existence. The web site was titled “Welcome
to the Page That Makes Fun of Dave Knight” and
prominently featured his picture along with
accusations that he was a pedophile and used
a date rape drug on little boys. The
creator of the web site posted pages of savage
comments directed towards David and his family,
and encouraged others to post more of the
reputation was slandered, and he ended up
finishing his final school year at home (cbc.ca,
2002, paras. 2-10; Giannetti & Sagarese,
2005, para. 1).
described blogs in an article in the Washington Post as “cyber
reality shows” and “widely
read diaries that publicly detail the social
dramas and fluctuating emotions of young
lives...they spare no language or feelings”
(Simmons, 2003, para. 7). She documented the blunt writings
of a 12-year-old blogger whose page served the purpose of denouncing
everyone she hated, and why. Four
different girls, each mentioned by first
names, were attacked in print; three were
assailed for perceived physical shortcomings,
and one was called a “slut
wannabe” (Simmons, 2003, para.8).
easily accessed on the Internet are also
used to further the activities of cyberbullies.
The distinction of the most infamous cyberbullied
victim arguably goes to Ghyslain Raza
(Snider & Borel,
2004, para. 7). Then only 15 years-old,
Raza videotaped himself recreating a
fight scene from the movie Star Wars,
solely for self amusement (Sparling,
2004, para. 1). Four
classmates took the video, digitized
it, and published it on the Kazaa file-sharing
network. Raza was so distraught
over the teasing he received due to the
video, he had to finish the semester
in a children’s
psychiatric ward (wired.com, 2003, para.
newspaper USA Today reported that the
video has been downloaded hundreds of
thousands of times, and that Raza is
now an Internet celebrity known as the
Star Wars Kid. His
notoriety has spawned web-based fan sites,
and his video has been bastardized by
Internet techies who have recreated his
image for various other on-line movie
adventures with characters from The Matrix
and The Hulk. His
parents eventually sued the parents of
the teens who posted the video on the
Internet for compensation for their son’s
humiliation (usatoday.com, 2003). Days
before the trial date, the parties involved
reached an out-of court settlement. While
the Razas had filed suit for $341,000,
terms of the settlement were not disclosed
tools used for bullying are rating and voting sites. One
incident involved students in the Manhattan,
New York school system that includes
some very prestigious private schools.
The students established a method of determine
the biggest “ho” (whore)
in their schools’ community
by engaging the services of a web site
called Freevote.com. A
virtual poll called The Interschool
Ho was created and 150 students were
listed and ranked. When parents
and teachers became aware of this activity,
they contacted the web master of Freevote.com
by e-mails to close the booth down.
That action was futile. Only
a phone call from the Brooklyn District
Attorney finally persuaded Freevote.com
to remove the offensive site (Benfer,
2001, paras. 3-5). Freevote.com
no longer exists. When I logged
onto the site on April 13, 2005, I
found it had been replaced by a site
called blogging.com. This site
caters more to business and community
organizations, as well as families,
to host their blogs for a monthly fee.
As of May 2006, that re-direct no longer
into freevote.com will get a non-response
from the server.
It is difficult
to get material posted by cyberbullies
removed from the Internet. One
site based in California called schoolscandals.com
was shut down but only after hundreds
of sexist and racist posts were made
by teens (Cooper, 2004, para. 13).
The site is now back on-line, but with
succinct rules posted by the administrator
that includes no name-calling and
a ban on posting private information
about other people (schoolscandals.com,
2004, Announcements, #153). These
rules seem to negate the reasons
for the site’s existence.
the case of David Knight, the police
were asked to investigate by Knight’s
parents. In an interview with
the CBC, a local law enforcement
officer would not directly comment
about Knight’s case but said,
generally, the police were powerless
unless threats of criminal intent
were made. The
parents eventually contacted Yahoo,
who hosted the defamatory site,
and asked them to remove it. The
Knight family believes it took
the threat of litigation against
Yahoo for them to take down the
months of phone calls and messages
did not work (cbc.ca, 2002, paras.
23-25, 28-29, 51).
One can easily
ascertain the anguish and humiliation
cyberbullying can cause. That
alone does not explain its popularity
as a method, however. Stephen
Brown (1999) quotes Home and
Socherman as defining “a
major characteristic of a bully,
whatever form it takes, is that
they will engage in the bad behavior
only so long as they can get
away with it with little or no
in the expanse of cyberspace
makes detectability very difficult.
Instead of knowing who the tormentors
are as in face-to-face confrontations,
the anonymity of the Internet
conceals their identity. This
anonymity frees the perpetrator
to conduct themselves on-line
in ways they would not do in
real life (media-awareness.ca,
2005, paras. 3-4).
to traditional bullying, cyberbullying
offers a more level playing
Marilyn Campbell, from the
Queensland University of Technology in Australia,
noted this difference in a
radio interview. She stated that
face-to-face bullying usually
involved aggression because
of a power imbalance; with cyberbullying,
status, physical strength,
and age did not matter. She remarked that this difference
could lead those who would not normally bully in public to
do so on-line (abc.net.au, 2004, paras. 12-16). This
theory was validated by a 2004 American study done by Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health along with the University
of New Hampshire. The study
reported 51% of cyberbullies were victims of traditional bullying
(Ybarra & Mitchell,
2004, Psychosocial challenges
section, para. 1).
It has also
been suggested that anonymity allows bullies to be more aggressive
and offensive due to the reduced chance of being detected and punished.
The victims may feel a magnified sense of dread and humiliation
because they do not know who is, or
how many are behind these cyber attacks (Zimmerle, 2003, paras. 2-3).
how do we fight what we cannot see? The
American based National
Parent-Teacher Association suggests parents do the following:
* Become familiar with the new technologies and
the many methods children have at their disposal
to commit cyberbullying acts.
* Promote positive values. Technology should not alter
common decency and kindness.
* Tell children to keep passwords
a secret, and change them often. Bullies may use others' identities
to send abusive messages.
* Communicate with your
child if you think they
may be a bullying victim. Typically children will not approach
a parent or teacher about this problem out of embarrassment.
Reassure the victim that it is not
* Keep hard copies. Any proof helps when reporting incidents
to the authorities or schools. Keep original e-mails
in a separate folder.
* Talk to your school to
see if cyberbullying is on
their agenda as the consequences
affect the classroom even
if most cyberbullying occurs
off school grounds.
* Emphasize the impact of the Internet to your children and
tell them to think before you click.
A message sent to one person can be forwarded to multitudes,
and old messages can come back to haunt you. (Giannetti and Sagarese,
2005. paras. 22-29)
a Canadian survey indicated that almost one in five children
under the age of 13 years experienced on-line bullying (Weeks,
Belsey, the creator of cyberbullying.ca states
that, “the best
defense against cyberbullying for now is a watchful, involved parent,
guardian, family member or friend” and
on his web site he offers
up signs to watch for that may indicate someone is being cyberbullied
(cyberbullying.ca, 2005, para. 1).
As an educator,
personal knowledge of these signs is important. Knowing
what resources are
available to combat cyberbullying
is important as well.
In researching this paper,
I discovered that cyberbullying.ca
is one of many worthwhile
sources of information.
Its pertinent Canadian
content makes it a
very valuable resource;
a section detailing what victims can do
to deal with a cyberbully
is filled with excellent
information on how
to track bullying messages
or web sites.
are being introduced to high technology at a very early age.
During my practicum in the
class at Wolseley
School in 2004, children four
to six years old
were in the computer lab
thirty minutes a
phones are becoming
an integral part
of family communication
and many children
now have cell phones of
their own. It
is vital that educators
aware about cyberbullying
and vigilant about
curbing this behavior. Our
and education are
too important. To
ignore the phenomenon
and its serious repercussions
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