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Cyber-Bullying: A Deadly Trend among Teens

Cyber bully Phoebe Prince was a 15 year old immigrant from Ireland whose family recently moved to Massachusetts. Phoebe, a red-headed beauty, appeared to be happy and stable during her transition into a new life far away from her Emerald Isle home.  But underneath Phoebe’s cheery facade, the freshman was being persecuted relentlessly by her schoolmates.  The taunts were endless, and “Irish slut” and “whore” became her nicknames.  Phoebe never discussed her anguish with anyone, not even with her close friends. Then the horrendous ridicule slithered its way from beyond the walls of her High School and into the black hole of cyberspace.  Phoebe’s harassment then became non-stop, and she finally found peace from the only option she thought she had -- suicide.   Phoebe was found dead in her home a few days before a big school dance on January 14, 2010.



Cyber-bullying has become a popular form of intimidation, which is far more lethal than schoolyard taunts. During a CBS news interview, Meline Kevorkian, the author of ‘101 Facts About Bullying,’ explained that “Cyber-bullying can be so dangerous because it can lead to cyber-mobbing, which means kids can come together to attack another kid, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”



Phoebe isn’t the only deadly cyber-bullying case that has made headlines.  Thirteen year old Megan Meier took her own life in 2006 when her neighbor’s mother posed as a 16 year old boy and relentlessly terrorized the teen on MySpace. No criminal charges were brought against the woman because the police did not have a charge to fit in the connection of Megan’s death.  The Meiers, however, are petitioning to get federal and state laws changed so that an adult will be charged with a crime if the individual is involved in the cyber-bullying of a minor.  Visit http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/ to read more about Megan’s tragic story.



Cyber-bullying is a serious form of harassment and can lead to deadly consequences. i-SAFE Inc.,Girl being bullied a non-profit foundation dedicated to empowering and educating kids to stay safe while on the internet (www.isafe.org) has compiled the following Cyber Bullying Statistics based on their 2004 survey of 1,500 students grades 4-8:



  • 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 has had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 has done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

Cyber Bullying is just as, and perhaps more hurtful than any physical abuse from a schoolyard scuffle.  There are no tell-tale signs for parents to identify when their child is being cyber-bullied, and the psychological effects of being humiliated can be quite devastating to a child.



Here is a recollection of a young woman’s own account when she was a victim of cyber-bullying:


Towards the end of the school year last year, I stayed home, and I started receiving all of these texts saying from different people saying how no one liked me, and I was weird. Someone had stolen my best friend’s phone and started sending me the most horrible messages, and I thought my best friend hated me. There was 4 days left of school, I stayed home for the rest of the year. I spent the summer with no friends. I had never felt so alone”.



Cyber-Bullying is a topic that demands more awareness and education both at home and at school.  Here are some tips that kids should follow if they become the target of cyber-bullying:


  • Tell a trusted adult about the bullying, and keep telling until the adult takes action.
  • Don’t open or read messages by cyber bullies.
  • Tell your school if it is school related. Schools have a bullying solution in place.
  • Don’t erase the messages—they may be needed to take action.
  • Protect yourself—never agree to meet with the person or with anyone you meet online.
  • If bullied through chat or instant messaging, the “bully” can often be blocked.
  • If you are threatened with harm, inform the local police.

(source: i-SAFE Inc.)

Technology has made it super easy for friends and family to connect, but it also has opened the doors for malicious and spiteful conduct to enter our homes with a click of a button. It is vital that parents recognize the signs of cyber-bullying whether their child is a victim or the intimidator.  Jace Shoemaker-Galloway has dedicated 4 years of her life to the education of internet safety, and she has worked with over a thousand elementary students to teach them about online safety awareness.  Jace is a feature writer on Suite 101, and her article, Cyberbullying-The Warning Signs: The Signs and Symptoms of Electronic Bullying, reveals important cyber bullying clues that parents should be aware of:


If a child is being harassed or bullied online, he or she may: Boy cyber bullied

  • Be reluctant to use the computer or electronic device
  • Avoid discussion about what they are doing on the computer, or other electronic device
  • Look or appear nervous, anxious or jumpy when receiving an email, IM or text message
  • Display unusual anger, sadness, and depression after using the computer or electronic device
  • Discuss revenge
  • Exit or click out of whatever they are doing, if a person walks by
  • Unexpectedly quits using the computer or electronic device
  • Be having trouble sleeping or have other sleeping disturbances
  • Show a decline in school homework or grades
  • Have an unusual interest in self-harm or in suicide
  • Exhibit unusual mood swings
  • Not feel well, headaches, upset stomach
  • Become reclusive, anti-social and/or is losing friends
  • Be unusually withdrawn or depressed
  • Not want to be involved in family or school activities


Signs a child may be the bully:Cyber bully teen

  • He or she may use numerous online accounts or accounts that are not theirs
  • When using the computer or electronic device, he or she excessively laughs
  • May avoid discussion or conversations regarding online activities
  • May close or click out whatever he or she is doing when a person walks by
  • May frequently use the computer, especially at night
  • May become upset if computer access or other electronic device is denied

Internet safety is an important issue that parents need to get educated on so that they can pass this knowledge onto their kids.  The more that parents; educators and students are informed about this very real social sickness, the more likely cyber-bullying will become unacceptable in everyone’s household.


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