Bullies are no longer content to taunt their victims in the playground but are turning to cyberspace, according to Canadian researchers.
They are using e-mail, text messaging and social networking sites in new forms of victimization.
Cyber bullies are even forcing their girlfriends to undress in front of webcams and then sharing the images with others online.
“They’re pressuring each other. This is particularly (true) for girls to send pictures of themselves with their tops off,” said Professor Faye Mishna, of the University of Toronto, who has been researching the cyber abuse of children.
“Girls might send it to their boyfriend and she is pressured to do it thinking he’s just going to see it. So she gives in and the next thing you know it’s all over (the place).”
The images are even more likely to be passed on if the couple breaks up, said Mishna who headed a research team that held focus groups with 47 students in grades 5-12.
Preliminary results from the research show so-called computer geeks are becoming the new schoolyard bullies. Final results of the study, which will be completed in June, are expected to be published in the autumn.
“Traditional bullying is a power differential,” Mishna said in an interview.
“The power before could have been age, size, smartness, popularity, ability. Now it’s the perceived anonymous nature. We’d like to find out how anonymous it really is. The power now is you can put it all over (the place).”
The focus groups also revealed victims refuse to tell an adult about the abuse because they fear they will be punished in order to be protected.
“They’re scared that their parents will take away their computer privileges,” Mishna said.
Students also thought it was pointless to tell parents about cyber bullies because they could not identify the culprits.
“Friends are giving their passwords out to somebody who they think is a good friend,” said Mishna. “Then they use it to bully somebody else.”
Traditional bullying is still continuing on school grounds, but technology has enabled the abuse to continue at home.
“This hasn’t replaced it, unfortunately,” Mishna said.
|copyright © 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.|