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Cyberbullying - The inconspicuous risk from the Internet

Like almost everything, even bullying has long since found a place on the Internet. Who has not been bullied in the schoolyard, most likely has been bullied at the net. According to a recent study by the University of Münster, a third of all students have been exposed to such personal attacks from the World Wide Web. They also introduced an online survey that concluded that more than 50 percent of the students, in general, see themselves victims of bullying attacks. This means that most young people, whether in the real world or on the Internet, have become a victim of this phenomenon at least once. We already realized that we must do more against bullying. However, often cyber bullying is left out. It is not taken as seriously as it should be. And that, despite bullying and cyber bullying stand shoulder to shoulder and often occur in combination with each other. This raises the question, what exactly is bullying and where or how does it actually starts? What exactly needs to happen, that someone is considered to be a victim of bullying?

It’s dangerous and hard to define

Cyberbullying | ©: serkat - Fotolia

Definition: If a person is exposed to a hostile situation over a longer period then this will be summarized as bullying. This is a very vague statement, because what exactly is a hostile attitude and how long has it to go on to be considered as bullying? For one week? A month or maybe longer? These questions can be answered only with great difficulty, therefore; everyone defines bullying according to their circumstances. In summary everyone agrees at least on that one, bullying is a combination of different, mostly malicious behaviors. It is a pattern, which frequently consists of two or more offenses, which are maintained for an extended period. It has the power to cause significant harm to the victim. Mainly the harm is mentally but physical harm is not unknown either.

Although bullying is a very cruel matter and we need to provide more prevention, so far this buzzword has no law. This is quite logical because it is difficult to combine several different offenses together in a law. Therefore, it is much simpler to leave everything as it is and treat every case individually. In most cases, we see a combination of the following offenses: insult, assault, defamation and partly threat and assault. In far-reaching situations, further offenses may come into play. The worst thing is that because of the internet bullying, this victimization can follow you into your home. With that, cyber bullying reached a whole new dimension.

Bullying and Cyberbullying - A combination

In many cases, cyberbullying is not limited to the net. It can find its way into school yards, sports clubs, and many other places. It often begins with insulting messages targeting a single person and snowballs from there on. Suddenly it is no longer only one insulting person. Semi-anonymously others join in through the network. Realistically, on their own, many would not even be brave enough to engage in such behavior. However, over the “safety” of the internet and being part of a group (however insulting), things are a lot easier. Compared with the real world, the only thing that might slow down the perpetrator(s) might be emotions. However, the internet does not know emotions.

Nevertheless, it can also happen the other way around, and it all starts in the real world. In one way, this is an advantage because some bullies when they see what they have done, they might stop. However, this can only happen when they see their victims and feel some compassion. Nonetheless, in this case, the group dynamic comes to bear. On one hand, it is hard for the initiator to stop the entire group again. One the other hand, kids might think, well, if everybody else does the same, that can’t be all that bad. Without any question, this situation is hard on the victim as well and can, even for the perpetrators, end in a vicious circle. Therefore, the best prevention for your children, for them neither become perpetrators or victims, is a self-awareness-oriented upbringing with good morals. Confident and popular young people are less likely to be bullied. This kind of person will strike back without giving others even a chance to interfere. However, if that does not happen, then will go on almost forever.

Strong Children cannot be bullied

Not every person can be the victim of a bullying attack. It all depends on how the individual deals with this. Starting with occasional insults, any bullying situation only can go on for any length of time, if the victim has no means to defend himself or does not know how to fight back. Followers usually get involved only if there is no risk to them. Regarding a person who does not know how to defend themselves, psychologists talk about a so-called victim personality. If someone knows how to stand up and actively defends himself, bullying such a person is no fun in the long run. However, those who do not respond, those who feel offended and show that openly, they demonstrate that they are weak. The perpetrators take advantage of such a child und just keep going. For this reason, it is so important to prepare your children. Preparing them in this context, does not mean preparing them for an attack. What I mean here is, prepare you children by bringing them up to be self-confident young people who do not put up with anything. If they also have high morals, they would be the best protection not to become perpetrators themselves.

There is hardly any offender with high morals

To make sure your child does not turn out over-confident to the point that he might put himself above everybody else it is important to teach him the right values. The point thereby is not so much to tell them right from wrong, but rather live those moral concepts, be their role model. The higher you set your own values and also live them, your children will follow. Unfortunately, there are a few things, which actually should not happen, but, have taken on standard status in our society. For example, it has become commonplace to speak badly of others. To pick on their mistakes and how embarrassingly bad they behaved just the other day. It has become a rather sick habit to talk about other people’s misfortunes and mistakes – and sometimes even right in front of them.

It seems there is an increasing tendency to tell everybody how to live and what is right and what’s wrong. Assume that we have the right to do so is a mistaken concept. Everyone made his own, very personal experiences throughout his life and, therefore, created his individual reality. The psychological discipline Neurolinguistics’ Programming (NLP) offers a very appropriate presupposition: The map is not the territory. That means everybody sees everything differently. Therefore, we should teach this our children and also tell them that this is perfectly ok. There is no need trying to change the people around us. This virtue is called acceptance and also is one of the most important cornerstones of society. Here is a valid example: two people witness a car accident. When interviewed by the police they are telling two different stories. Who is right? Both of them, because everyone sees the accident in his own individual way. For example, one may pay more attention to what he sees while the other pays more attention to what he hears – and already you have two different stories. Both told different observation, yet, both are right at the same time. They just saw the accident from different perspectives and through the lens of their individual experiences. This will always be that way because the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Conclusion - acceptance, self-confidence, and high morals

We must teach our children to accept everyone just the way they are. And also, that it is not on to discriminate against others because they are different or hold different opinions. Furthermore, the best protection for children to neither become victims or perpetrators is to bring them up with a high morals and a good and healthy portion of self-confidence. Everyone who gives their children high morals and teaches them acceptance and confidence does hardly have to worry whether his child will get bullied.

Bullying, cyberbullying - a theme in the youth group

A youth worker sees and hears a lot. Especially when paying attention to the kids, and observes how they treat each other. For presentational reasons or optional, because of “recent events”, cyber bullying should be addressed within the youth group.

Nobody wants to be a victim, but how fast are we, participating in the anonymous bullying on the net, compared to other people? What happens if we are victimized? Do you want to be the victim? It is important for the young person to understand what it is like to be the target. To put himself in the shoes of somebody else and then decides, “This is nothing I will ever participate in.”

An old saying goes: “He who points with one finger at others, points with three fingers back to himself.” In other words, someone who feels the need to bully others does not think highly of himself. He shows little responsibility, a lack of self-confidence; a lack of inner strength. What he really does is, covering his weaknesses, by weakening somebody else, by trying to break them. The intention behind it is, to make someone else feel just as down and out as himself.

Are you able to convey that to young people? That bullying others is merely an admission about how bad I feel about myself. The young people are supposed to think this concept over and find out for themselves if this bears any truth. Apparently, not in any case, but definitely in many.

It is an imperative to reach the young people in your care on this issue. To raise the awareness to put themselves into somebody else’s shoes and feel it as was it their situation. Likewise, it is important for the young people to understand the underlying psychological background of perpetrators. Ideally this approach may lead to getting a better understanding of himself and conclude to say no to (cyber) bullying.

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