This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

March 10, 2010

Cyberbullying---a Growing Problem

In previous Herman Trend Alerts, we have discussed "digital dirt", negative information about an individual posted online. Now, we discover a related problem, "cyberbullying", or Internet bullying and unfortunately, in Sweden about 10 percent of all adolescents in grades 7 to 9 are victims. According to the United States website iSafe.org, in the 2003-04 school year, 42 percent of US children in grades four through eight had been bullied while online and one in four had it happen more than once.

Cyberbullying occurs when people, often adolescents, use electronic technologies, including computers and mobile phones to harass or bully another. The bullies often use SMS, e-mail, chat rooms, and the website Facebook to spread their negative messages.

Victims of cyberbullying have no refuge from their attackers. At times, they are harassed continuously via cell-phone text messages and websites. The information spreads very quickly and may be difficult to remove. Moreover, the perpetrator is often difficult to identify, due to their ability to post negative messages anonymously. The system also "makes it possible for a weaker person to bully a stronger, which is uncommon in conventional bullying".

A recent study by Ann Frisén, Professor of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg, draws attention to this global problem. 'This type of bullying can be more serious than conventional bullying, says Professor Friesen. "At least with conventional bullying the victim is left alone on evenings and weekends", she continues. There appears to be a clear connection to school life, since cyberbullying lessens in the summer.

According to Frisén, parents have an important role to play in helping their children handle the situation. She believes rather than forbidding children from visiting certain websites, they should instead teach them how to act when they are there. "It is also important not to blame victimized children, since it's really not their fault. Our job is instead to help them end the harassment."

Not only will cyberbullying intensify, but it will also proliferate into new media, as they emerge. Governments will attempt to crack down on this problem, however only a system of transparency will truly help.


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