Opinion / Web Comments

Protect children from cyber-bullying

By Ming Yang (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2012-04-25 15:44

When you think about bullying, you might think of a child being harassed by another in the schoolyard. As more young people have access to computers and cell phones, traditional bullying has gone digital, which has not yet gained awareness in Chinese parents.

Cyber-bullying, first coined by Canadian educator Bill Belsey, is the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner (Cyberbullying.org). It involves threatening text messages, the spread of online rumors on social networking sites, and intentionally excluding someone from an online group. Cyber-bullying is at an all-time high in the US. According to a study from the US Department of Justice, more than 43% of teenagers report being victims of cyber-bullying.

Compared to face-to-face bullying, cyber-bullying is perceived to take a heavier emotional toll on the victims, and kids could feel more desperate and devastated. Research says that cyber-bullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youths who had not experienced it.

In traditional schoolyard bullying, at least home is a safe place for the victims. But cyber-bullying is relentless, it could happen anytime, and really doesn’t go away. You can be a target 24/7. Moreover, in the digital world, bullying is much easier, as a bully can pick on people with a much lower risk of being caught.

Actually, cyber-bullying has become a worldwide issue. In the US, as several teens committed suicide because of cyber-bullying, legislation to penalize cyber-bullying has been introduced in some states.

In China, cyber-bullying is still perceived by many parents and educators as a problem that involves physical contact. However, as cell phones and laptops are becoming common equipment for adolescents, social interactions have increasingly moved from personal contact to virtual contact. Cyber-bullying is spreading faster than expected.

For schools and parents, safety rules should be set in the virtual world for kids, such as telling them not to reveal anything that you wouldn’t tell a stranger, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do offline. Proactive steps should be taken to make the public aware of the seriousness of this problem, because it would be too late to take measures after tragedy strikes.

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