Muriel Cooper
Psychologist in Mornington

Stress, anxiety and depression

 

BullyingThe incidence of cyber bulling is increasing – one figure puts it at between around 22 percent of children or young adults in their teens in Australia who has been bullied via electronic communication (it’s not just internet it’s email and other electronic media) .  Communication on the electronic media is very ‘text lean’ and lacks emotional content – the recipient fills in the emotional content themselves’ and this interpretation can be very negative and threatening.  So the bully may not intend to be so mean – it’s how you perceive it.In the case of cyber bullying – the behaviour is protected by:

 

  • Anonymity – you can bully someone and they won’t know who you are – you could be on the other side of the world  ( in the US case of the cyber bullying mother the victim did not realise that the bully who drove her to suicide was her next door neighbour)
  • The law doesn’t protect you at the moment – our Australian legal system isn’t equipped to deal with it (neither is the US legal system)

So the alternative is to take up your own power to understand it and deal with it.  Try not to hand your power over to someone whether you know them or not.  There are things you can do.

Why people bully

  • They may see it as a way of being popular
  • It makes them feel tough and in charge or they may be being abused or bullied at home
  • Bullies may do it to get attention or material objects (I’ll leave you alone if you give me your IPod and so on)
  • People bully to make other people afraid of them. It makes them feel powerful – they might even have some kind of abnormal psychology like sociopathy or psychopathy which would account for the lack of empathy or emotional intelligence
  • They might be jealous of the person they are bullying
  • Some bullies may not even realise what they are doing is wrong – again they have no empathy – they can’t understand how it is making the other person feel – young people especially can appear very cruel, this is because they are still finding out who they are and working out their own moral and ethical values (that is not an excuse, it’s a possible reason).
  • It could be copycat behaviour as in the case of the recent suicides occurring in one school – for any or all the above reasons.
  • Some cyber bullies may justify their behaviour by being ‘righteous” that is, they think their bullying and harassment is justified because the object of their violence or manipulation has done something ‘wrong’ and they are going to make it ‘right.’

What to do about it

  • Try not to react – that is allow the bully to shock you, make you feel afraid, make you feel bad – there are things you can do without giving up your right to have access to electronic communication.
  • Instead of reacting (thinking or feeling without working it out first) – respond.
  • If you get a malicious or threatening communication do nothing for 5 seconds.
  • Ask yourself “How am I going to respond to this – not just react – that’s just giving them what they want”.  Then try one of these techniques.

A few basic tips for prevention and cure:

  • Be extra sensitive about what you say online (remember the other person could take it the wrong way and you might end up bullying someone without meaning to or you might attract bullying)
  • Don’t be aggressive with your communications by arguing or using inflammatory cyber symbols or ‘emoticons’
  • Don’t share your password with anyone!
  • Make private entry questions very hard in order to protect your privacy as much as possible
  • Turn on a device to moderate the content to messages to ‘nip them in the bud’
  • If a joke goes too far – speak out – don’t just “suck it silently”
  • If they keep harassing you – ask them to stop

If they won’t:

  • Don’t respond to the bully at all
  • Save the evidence in a folder plus make a hard copy if possible
  • Block and delete the bully from the service (you can do this)
  • Report the abuse to the administrator of the service
  • Tell people you trust – friends – trusted adults, teachers, parents, and ultimately the police especially if you know who the bully is.

Inspired by The Wood Verdict at blogspot.com . This information is included in more detail on in Tom Wood’s blog.  It covers everything specifically – MySpace – facebook – Youtube and so on. Read Tom Wood’s Complete Guide to Stopping Cyber Bullying at thewoodverdict.blogspot.com

Otherwise call Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 or go to www.kidshelpline.com.au

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Teachers try Internet Safety Resources and Teaching: Essential Resources for Cyber Safety at www.cybersafeworld.com

NetAlert a government sponsored program on 1800 880 176 or visit www.netalert.gov.au

Finally for families there is the National Centre Against Bullying (NACAB) at www.ncab.org.au or call (03) 960 70666

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