Cyberbullying is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.”
Students use technology to bully through personal web pages; social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook or Flickr; YouTube; cell phone, text, picture and video messages; email and IM’ing; and blogs and forums. Some examples of cyberbullying include:
A 2008 study (PDF) found that 72% of students reported being bullied online in the past year. Most knew the perpetrator.
Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that are threatening or intimidating. Engaging in other online activities that make the victim afraid for his or her safety. Cyber Threats: The use of a computer, cell phone or other electronic device to threaten a person’s physical safety and well-being (Hinduja & Patchin 2009). Defamation: “Dissing” someone online. Sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships. Exclusion: Intentionally excluding someone from an online group, like a buddy list. Flaming or Trolling: Online fighting using electronic messages with angry and crude language. Happy Slapping: A phenomenon that links traditional bullying with cyberbullying where an unsuspected person is recorded being harassed or bullied in a way that usually includes some type of physical abuse. The digital photo or video is uploaded to the web (Hinduja & Patchin 2009). Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude and insulting messages. Impersonation: Pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material online that makes the victim look bad, gets the victim in trouble or danger, or damages the victim’s reputation or friendships. Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone’s secret or embarrassing information online. Tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information that is then shared online. Photoshopping: The modification or alteration of a photo or image. This becomes cyberbullying if the image is altered in a humiliating or obscene way and uploaded to the Web (Hinduja & Patchin 2009).
What you may think is funny or a simple prank may not be funny to the victim. The victim may respond very differently than you expect. If you are not sure how the victim of your prank or joke may respond, or if you wouldn’t do it to that person’s face, then don’t do it online. What if you send an embarrassing picture of your girlfriend or boyfriend to a friend, thinking it won’t go further than that? The fact is, you have no idea what a friend might do with something you send. Once you have sent it, you have lost control of where it might end up and any harm it might cause. You can get into serious trouble for cyberbullying. Under Montana and federal laws, a cyberbully might be charged with:
A Criminal Offense: depending on the specific circumstances of a case, cyberbullying in Montana could lead to a number of criminal charges, including:
- Violating privacy in communications: 45-8-213 of the Montana Code Annotated (MCA)
- Stalking: 45-5-220 MCA
- Malicious intimidation or harassment relating to civil or human rights: 45-5-221 MCA
- Surreptitious visual observation or recordation: 45-5-223 MCA
- Obscenity – 45-8-201 MCA
- Public display or dissemination of obscene material to minors: 45-8-206 MCA
- Sexual abuse of children: 45-5-625 MCA
Defamatory Libel: written communication that can severely harm an individual’s reputation. Defamation/Slander: communicating a false statement that harms another person’s reputation. Both libel and slander could result in the victim filing a lawsuit against you. So think, before you post.
Contact the CyberTipline if:
Provide support – be a friend. For example, make positive comments on a friend’s Facebook page, especially if others have made negative comments. And let others know that it is not cool to be cruel, to harass someone or to spread rumors about others. Check out the That’s Not Cool website for ideas. Educate your peers and community members about cyberbullying. Here are some ideas from i-SAFE’s Student Tool Kit (PDF)