When I ask parents to tell me what comes to mind when I say the word "bully," most descriptions are variants of the stereotypical oversized, unkempt hoodlums who cut class, smoked in the bathroom, and beat up honor students for their lunch money. Oh, the good old days! Modern-day cyber-bullies are not just the same old miscreants equipped with a laptop and a smart phone. They come in many forms, as do their misdeeds.
The best definition: Cyber-bullying is a form of harassment in which the "bully" uses any form of mobile or Internet-based communication to abuse the "bullied," perhaps anonymously, but almost never face-to-face.
In a study involving victims of cyber-bullying, 31 percent of students victimized reported being very or extremely upset, 19 percent were very or extremely afraid and 18 percent were very or extremely embarrassed by online harassment. The study also found that this type of abuse could have grievous long-term effects on a victim's self-esteem, emotional well-being and potentially harm their prospects for success in all other aspects of their lives.
As scary and unmanageable as the problem might seem, many people, myself included, are dedicated to helping parents and teens harness the power of the Internet to do good.
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