Textual harassment

I was interviewed recently on the back of a blog post I wrote on cyberbullying entitled Bully 4 U and the straw poll survey I conducted. The Evening Herald, a newspaper based in South West England features my interview in an article entitled: 'Tormentors who use technology'. Here's my full interview with commentary by reporter Cherie Gordon:

The traditional figure of the playground bully is a well-known sight for countless children. Over the past few years, however, a new type of bully has left the school corridors and entered the World Wide Web. Family computers have been hacked into by cyber bullies who attack their victims not face to face, but via internet chatrooms, network sites and online messaging.

"Bullying of any kind is destructive and can ruin lives, but cyber bullying may be the most insidious form," said Steve Wheeler, a senior lecturer in education and ICT. "Children can escape from the school playground bully, but they find it harder to escape from the bully who invades their home, their desktop, their mind. Cyber bullying isn't going to replace traditional bullying; it will take it to a whole new dimension."

Musing about the emergence of the cyber trend on his online blog, Mr Wheeler reports the findings of a poll he carried out, questioning other childcare professionals on the issues surrounding bullying.

"On my blog I was talking about keeping children safe on the internet," said the 52-year-old. "I asked what people thought the greatest danger for children was on social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook. There were several options to choose from including cyber bullying. The majority of those who answered – 36 per cent – thought cyber bullying was going to be the most obvious threat. It is very interesting that for over one in three it is the most important."

Bullying has always been a curse for some youngsters but now, with the internet's ability to reach into a victim's home, at any time, adults are also becoming targets. "I haven't had any experience of cyber bullying myself but I know colleagues who have," said Mr Wheeler. "I know of situations where people's careers have been virtually destroyed by it. I heard of a situation recently about a teacher in a school who experienced this. He was very respected and worked in a secondary school and the police came to arrest him. He said, 'What's the problem?' and they said two of his female colleagues claimed that he'd been sending them text messages asking them to sit in front of a webcam and take their clothes off. It emerged that two of the lads in his class had hijacked his SMS and sent these messages, just because they didn't like him. You can imagine the shock and horror and bad feelings in the staff room, even though he was innocent. Reputations can be damaged. It's quite insidious because it's anonymous."

Read more online here.
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Comments

simfin said…
I'm asked to speak regularly about this to adults and children, and to be honest I haven't yet managed to fully understand all the issues after over 3yrs of trying.. We're all braver from behind a keyboard or key pad (or itouch screen!).

One of the key areas of concern is how the 'bully' is no longer just that unpleasant kid (or adult) who euphemistically has 'issues'. 'Normal people, people like us can be come cyberbullies, a throw away remark, may remain unheard yet a casual negative comment (Donna's hair looked weird today) made on MSN, on a Facebook Wall or in a text can be copied, pasted, shared and misconstrued so that the originator of the statement can find themselves on the wrong side of Donna's Army the next day..

Good kids can easily become so very hurtful when crouched around a computer in a bedroom or out of sight of parents/adults. We all as kids may draw a mustache or hairy leg on another pupil's photo - 'just for a laugh'. In the good days the picture would be destroyed and the event almost forgotten. Today these 'doctored' digital are shared across the globe for eternity and this humiliation is often too much to bear.. okay enough from me.. can go on about this for hours:-)

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