Leigh was in eighth grade when the messages started — first, a weird
text on her new cell phone, then some angry-sounding IMs. Her first
year in high school, she learned that some of her classmates had
created a website specifically to upset her. The emails, texts, and
MySpace posts got worse. It was so bad that she eventually changed
18, Leigh says she has come through the experience more self-aware and
compassionate toward others. It was a terrible time, she says, but with
some counseling and support from adults and friends, she was able to
make sense of what happened to her.
Nearly half of all
teens have been the victims of what's come to be called
"cyberbullying." According to several recent studies, it's a problem
that is on the rise. The good news is that our awareness of
cyberbullying and what works to prevent it is growing even faster.
Here are some suggestions on what to do if you, or someone you know, is involved with online bullying.
VIDEO: Violence: Cyberbullying
What Counts as Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.
threats or "flames" (rude texts, IMs, or messages) count. So does
posting personal information or videos designed to hurt or embarrass
Online bullying can be easier to commit than other
acts of bullying because the bully doesn't have to confront the victim
in person. Some cyberbullies probably don't realize just how hurtful
their actions are.
definition, cyberbullying involves young people. If an adult sends the
messages or notes, it may meet the legal definition of cyber-harassment
Virtual Acts, Real Consequences
Because of the role technology plays in our lives, there is often no
place to hide from bullies. Online bullying can happen at home as well
as school (even in the coffee shop or anywhere else people go online).
And it can happen 24 hours a day.
online bullying, like other kinds of bullying, can leave people at risk
for serious problems: Stress from being in a constant state of upset or
fear can lead to problems with mood, energy level, sleep, and appetite.
It can also make someone feel jumpy, anxious, or sad.
not just the person being bullied who gets hurt — the punishment for
cyberbullies can be serious. More and more schools and after-school
programs are creating systems to respond to cyberbullying. Schools may
kick bullies off sports teams or suspend them from school. Some types
of cyberbullying may violate school codes or even break
antidiscrimination or sexual harassment laws, so a bully may face serious legal trouble.
Why Do People Do It?
Why would someone be a cyberbully? There are probably as many reasons as there are bullies themselves.
what seems like cyberbullying may be accidental. The impersonal nature
of text messages, IMs, and emails makes it very hard to detect a
sender's tone, and one person's joke could be another's devastating
Most people know when they're being bullied,
though, as bullying involves relentless teasing or threats. The people
doing the bullying know they've crossed a line too. It's not a one-off
joke or insult — it's constant harassment and threats.
Intentional online bullying can be a sign that the bully is feeling
hurt, frustrated, or angry, and is lashing out at others.
What to Do
If you're being bullied, harassed, or teased in a hurtful way — or know
someone who is — there is no reason to suffer in silence. In fact, you
absolutely should report upsetting IMs, emails, texts, etc.
Most experts agree: the first thing to do is tell an adult you trust.
This is often easier said than done. Teens who are cyberbullied may
feel embarrassed or reluctant to report a bully. But bullying can
escalate, so speak up until you find someone to help.
parents are so concerned about protecting their kids that sometimes
they focus on taking all precautions to stop the bullying. If you're
being bullied and worry about losing your Internet or phone privileges,
explain your fears to your parents. Let them know how important it is
to stay connected, and work with them to figure out a solution that
doesn't leave you feeling punished as
well. You may have to do
some negotiating on safe cell phone or computer use — the most
important thing is to first get the bullying under control.
can also talk to your school counselor or trusted teacher or other
family member. If the bullying feels like it's grinding your life down,
counseling can help.
If you're not ready for that, you can still benefit from the support of a trusted adult.
That tip you've heard about walking away from a real-life bully works
in the virtual world too. Knowing that you can step away from the
computer (or turn off your phone) allows you to keep things in
perspective and focus on the good things in your life. Ignoring bullies
is the best way to take away their power. Sometimes ignoring a bully
isn't easy to do — just try the best you can.
Report it to your service provider.
Sites like Facebook, MySpace, or YouTube take it seriously when people
use their sites to post cruel or mean stuff or set up fake accounts. If
users report abuse, the site administrator may block the bully from
using the site in future. You can also complain to phone service or
email providers (such as Gmail, Verizon, Comcast, and Yahoo) if someone
is bothering you.
Block the bully.
Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block the
bully or bullies from sending notes. If you don't know how to do this,
ask a friend or adult who does.
Resist the urge to "fight back." In some cases, standing up to a bully
can be effective, but it's also more likely to provoke the person and
escalate the situation. Ask an adult to intervene instead — after all,
fighting fire with fire just leaves everything burned.
it's not a good idea to respond to a bully, it is a good idea to save
evidence of the bullying if you can. It can help you prove your case,
You don't have to keep mean emails, texts,
or other communications where you see them all the time — you can
forward them to a parent or save them to a flash drive.
Be safe online.
Password protect your cell phone and your online sites, and change your
passwords often. Be sure to share your passwords only with your parent
or guardian. It's also wise to think twice before sharing personal
information or photos/videos that you don't want the world to see.
you've posted a photo or message, it can be difficult or impossible to
delete. So remind yourself to be cautious when posting photos or
responding to someone's upsetting message.
If a Friend Is a Bully
If you see a friend acting as a cyberbully, take him or her aside and
gently talk about it. Perhaps there's a reason behind the bullying and
you can help your friend think about what it is. Or, if you don't know
the person well enough to talk about feelings, just stand up for your
own principles: Let the bully know it's not cool. Explain that it can
have very serious consequences for the bully as well
as "bystanders" like you and your friends who may feel stressed out or upset about what's going on.
Reviewed by: Michelle New, PhD
Date reviewed: December 2008
Protecting Your Online Identity and Reputation
Ashley is a high-school junior in Illinois. She and her friends use
MySpace to communicate, but she's very careful about the information,
pictures, and comments she sends and posts — even though her profile is
set to private. She knows that nothing is ever really private online.
know teens who have gotten kicked off their sports teams because of
pictures and inappropriate material they have on their profiles," she
Her advice is simple: "Be smart about what you
put on the Internet, because you never know who is looking at what you
have on there."
From the first time you log on to a
social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, pick a screen name for
instant messaging (IM), or post to a blog on your favorite band, you're
creating an online identity.
Your online identity may
be different from your real-world identity — the way your friends,
parents, and teachers think of you — and some parts of it may be
entirely made up. Maybe you're a little shy in real life, but online
you're a jokester and your avatar is a famous comedian. Maybe your
classmates think of you as a soccer star, but online you indulge your
passion for chess and environmentalism.
and trying on different characteristics are part of the fun of an
online life. You can change your look or the way you act and present
yourself to others, and you can learn more about things that interest
you. And, just as in real life, you can take steps to help make sure
you stay in control.
Things to Consider
Here are some things to consider to safeguard your online identity and reputation:
Remember that nothing is temporary online.
The virtual world is full of opportunities to interact and share with
people around the world. It's also a place where nothing is temporary
and there are no "take-backs." A lot of what you do and say online can
be retrieved online even if you delete it — and it's a breeze for
others to copy, save, and forward your information.
Mark your profiles as private.
Anyone who accesses your profile on a social networking site can copy
or screen-capture information and photos that you may not want the
world to see. Don't rely on the site's default settings. Read each
site's instructions or guidelines to make sure you're doing everything
you can to keep your material private.
Safeguard your passwords and change them frequently.
If someone logs on to a site and pretends to be you, they can trash
your identity. Pick passwords that no one will guess (don't use your
favorite band or your dog's birthday; try thinking of two utterly
random nouns and mixing in a random number), and change them often.
Never share them with anyone other than your parents or a trusted
adult. Not even your best friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend should know
your private passwords!
Don't post inappropriate or sexually provocative pictures or comments.
Things that seem funny or cool to you right now might not seem so cool
years from now — or when a teacher, admissions officer, or potential
employer sees them.
A good rule of thumb is: if you'd feel weird if your grandmother, coach, or best
friend's parents saw it, it's probably not a good thing to post. Even
if it's on a private page, it could be hacked or copied and forwarded.
Don't respond to inappropriate requests.
Research shows that a high percentage of teens receive inappropriate
messages and solicitations when they're online. These can be scary,
strange, and even embarrassing. If you feel harassed by a stranger or a
friend online, tell an adult you trust immediately. It is never a good
idea to respond. Responding is only likely to make things worse, and
might result in you saying something you wish you hadn't. You can
report inappropriate behavior or concerns at www.cybertipline.org .
Take a breather to avoid "flaming."
File this one under "nothing's temporary online": If you get the urge
to fire off an angry IM or comment on a message board or blog, it's a
good idea to wait a few minutes, calm down, and remember that the
comments may stay up (with your screen name right there) long after
you've regained your temper and maybe changed your mind.
might feel anonymous or disguised in chat rooms, social networks, or
other sites — and this could lead to mean, insulting, or abusive
comments toward someone else, or sharing pictures and comments you may
later regret. We've all heard of cyberbullying, but most people think
online bullying is something people do intentionally. But sharing stuff
or dropping random comments when we're not face to face with someone
can hurt just as much, if not more. And it can damage how others see
you if they find out. A good rule to remember: if you wouldn't say it,
show it, or do it in person, you probably don't want to online.
Learn about copyrights.
It's a good idea to learn about copyright laws and make sure you don't
post, share, or distribute copyrighted images, songs, or files. Sure,
you want to share them, but you don't want to accidentally do anything
illegal that can come back to haunt you later.
Chances are, you've already checked your "digital footprint" — nearly
half of all online users do. Try typing your screen name or email
address into a search engine and see what comes up. That's one way to
get a sense of what others see as your online identity.
Take it offline.
In general, if you have questions about the trail you're leaving
online, don't be afraid to ask a trusted adult. Sure, you might know
more about the online world than a lot of adults do, but they have life
experience that can help.
Your online identity and
reputation are shaped in much the same way as your real-life identity,
except that when you're online you don't always get a chance to explain
your tone or what you mean. Thinking before you post and following the
same rules for responsible behavior online as you do offline can help
you avoid leaving an online identity trail you regret.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2009
Hey, I’m Adam
Visit us on Facebook! or email me
“We’ve created a place on the internet for you to ask the questions
you’ve always wanted to ask. So take a look around, then let us know
what you think about it. You might make a really good point about
something, then see what others think about it as well. It’s getting
involved, and sharing ideas about all kinds of subjects.”
I'm Adam. I joined this web site because I really appreciate what In
Search of Me Cafe is trying to do. When I was faced with tough choices
I never really had a lot of people to talk to. Often I was embarrassed
asking for advice on awkward stuff from my friends and family. I think
if there had been an In Search of Me Cafe when I was making tough
decisions it would have really helped me.
enough about why I like this site so much. I have always liked to party
and I love chillin’ with my friends. Obviously partying can lead to
some tough life choices; I had my first alcoholic drink when I was 13.
That may seem pretty young but I grew up in Europe where the legal age
was 16. Yes I know... that’s still underage.
I was underage. It’s easy to drink when your friends drink. Needless to
say, from the first drink till now, I have experienced a lot. Partying
was probably the best tool in learning about me which may seem strange
but I really learned a lot about how I treat my friends and
relationships, how I trust …you name it. Good times and bad I have
gained valuable life lessons. If you ever need to talk about stuff or
you have a question you’re burning to ask or if you just wanna share
stories. Go ahead and holler. I won’t judge and it’s pretty hard to
faze me. I’ll give you my honest opinion and you never know, you may
have an experience that’ll teach me some things too.
Hey, I’m Taran
Visit us on Facebook! or email me
“Every teen has to face the same type of problems and try to figure out who they are. This is a place where you can do that.”
Hey, I’m Maddie
Visit us on Facebook! or email me
“Up until this year I was picked on a lot and it really brings down
your self esteem. Kids don't think about how they're really affecting
other people with their words and eventually the other kids' self
esteem goes down and down and they start to believe what the bullies
are saying. After a while you just start to give up and think, ‘Oh,
what's the point. I suck anyway’ and your grades and everything else
Hey, I’m Chelsi.
Visit me us Facebook! or email me
Each morning I see in my mind what I’m working hard to obtain. I
know I can achieve anything I set my mind on by putting in the time
& effort needed. I believe one can learn from every experience. I
like to ‘take the best and leave the rest’!“
a rule I don’t like talking about myself. However, I want you to know
a little about me, the “teen” likely not much different than you and
thinking a lot of the same things and having similar questions etc.
I try to treat everyone with respect and kindness, just as I would
hope to be treated! Hopefully I can help answer questions you may have
or concerns you don’t want to discuss with an adult… you know
Here’s a bit of what I like to do…. I love
hanging with my friends at the movies or the mall, and staying in with
my family. I love music, sometimes when I’m upset or “heartbroken” I go
in my room and just listen to music. It just lets me cool off and just
not have to think.
Although I’m only 13 on paper, I’m
told I’m much wiser than my years. If there is a problem, I am the
first person anyone calls. I may be nice but, if someone hurts anyone I
know (whether I like ya or not) they are in trouble… haha. They call me
“the haha queen” because I can make any situation funny.
hope after hearing this little bit “about me” you want to ask me your
questions, and if you just want to chat, I’d love to. I like meeting
“And it's now, now or never when we're chasing our dreams.” -Mercy Mercedes
“I'd like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly.” -Owl City
“Do you know what's worth fighting for? When it's not worth dying for?” –Green Day
What my friends have to say About me - Chelsi♥ ……
like talking to you because you can always make me feel good about
myself and make me happy no matter what. I like you as a person because
you really are a great friend and I thank you for being there for me,
and you’re just fun to be with.” -Jessie
hard.. To put into words.. The uncanny ability you have to put a smile
on my face and that’s just online, from reading the nearly poetic
replies. Where as over the phones it’s near impossible to explain the
warmth that washes over me when I hear your voice. For some reason when
I heard you for the first time. Chelsi you inspired my first poem I wrote … -Sean
Hey, I’m Brittany
Visit us on Facebook! or email me
“When people go to parties just to hang out, other people come and
bring drinks or cigarettes, and try to get you to do it. They keep
trying and trying to get you to drink or smoke, and you might be
tempted do it because you want to be known as a cool person.”
Hey, I’m Trent
“I have cousins my same age and younger who are Haitian and Filipino,
which allows me to connect with other cultures. Even with different
styles and different issues, these other teenagers still have some of
the same dramas we have here in America, such as peer pressure.” Hey, I’m Trent
Hey, I’m Forrest
“You can post video blogs on this site -- voice your opinions about
topics here as well as responses to what others are saying in their
blogs. So it kinda builds upon itself.”
Hey, I’m Connor
Hi, I’m Connor Cottle. I’m 17 and a junior at Fernandina Beach
High School in northeast Florida. As an only child, my friends are
really important to me, so I’m either hanging out with them or texting
them when we’re apart.
I spend my free time on the tennis court, the golf course, and at the beach. I volunteer
frequently around my community and enjoy every minute of it.
am also the Lead Youth Advisor of the In Search of Me Café program and
I’m involved because I like how connecting teens all over the world can
help them help themselves.
I’m always around if you need any advice or if you just want to hang out.
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