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Here's What You Need To Know About Cyberbullying

Between "Happy Slapping" and "shoulder surfing," check out this primer on cyberbullying terminology

Preventing bullying within your school buildings is a task in and of itself, but 21st-century students reach into the cyber realm to digitally harass their victims. Students exert their influence amongst their peers from the shadows of their own virtual realm by utilizing text, email, social media, apps, message boards, and even online gaming forums.

Educators and administrators don’t have to troll feeds or strap on headsets and game to know that cyberbullying happens - we just have to believe that it does. Going a step further, we need to know when the embarrassing and humiliating cross the line into criminal behavior, and educate our communities about digital footprints and the damage of cyberbullying.

Education can be the first step to prevention, and cluing in our students as to the permanence of what they post and the online social persona they manifest becomes an essential component of 21st-century etiquette and knowledge. Their “online rep” reaches well beyond the here and now, providing future educational institutions, employers, organizations, and more a glimpse into the “who” they purport to be online. Guilty-by-association takes on a whole new meaning in relation to cyberbullying, as your students represent your school in all that they do.

Here are key facts that you need to know:

#1 - You can’t just delete it. Many students think they can post, delete, and no one will be the wiser. They couldn’t be more wrong, and thinking so is naive. Just check to see how easy it is to access internet posts from years and decades ago. Plus, anyone can screenshot and save posts as evidence of cyberbullying.

#2 - Laws require schools to act. State laws now require schools to respond to bullying both on and off campus, with cyberbullying included. The laws detail strict and explicit definitions of all elements involved. California has both anti-bullying laws and policies, that can be found on the website. Some bullying can cross over into the realm of civil rights violations, so be sure you know the laws for your state and have known policies for your school district.

#3 - Terminology surrounding cyberbullying changes all the time. Here are some current terms that you should know:

  • Bash board - an online bulletin board where the intent is to post malicious and horrific statements against another person

  • Cancel Culture - cyberbullying with the intent to have someone “canceled” or disliked by removing status based on previous acts or false, accusatory transgressions

  • Catfish or Impersonation - stealing someone’s identity or creating a fake account using their information and likeness with the intent to embarrass or grant access to private records

  • CD9 - “Code 9” - slang abbreviation alerting other teens an adult or authority figure is present or nearby

  • Challenges - often dangerous dares for teens to record, carry out, and post, most recently including eating dishwasher pods & attempted asphyxiation

  • Denigration - posting/sending cruel gossip/rumors with the intent to destroy a reputation

  • Doxing - using “docs” or private documents to reveal embarrassing information about someone or to reveal private details with malicious intent

  • Exclusion - keeping someone out on purpose with the intent to emotionally harm

  • Finsta - “fake Insta” - any fake account used to cyberbully; teens often have “finstas” so their parents cannot see their actual online activity

  • Flaming - incendiary online fights with vulgar and abusive language; frequently leads to a “flamewar”

  • Ghost - engaging with someone online and then ignoring them entirely with the intent to harm; frequently occurs at the end of a romantic relationship

  • Hacking - when someone circumvents your security measures to gain access to private information with the intent to harm

  • Happy Slapping - physical acts of violence recorded on electronic devices and then posted online

  • Outing - sharing someone’s secrets on a public forum, usually associated with revealing someone’s sexuality

  • Revenge Porn - posting or distributing sexualized images of another person/previous partner without their consent with the intent to embarrass

  • Sexting - sending sexually explicit images across digital means, which often turns into revenge porn or sextortion (threatening revenge porn) once the relationship ends

  • Shoulder Surfing - watching as someone else commits cyberbullying, often assuming they are not a part of the issue

  • Spamming - repeatedly sending messages, posting, or calling someone’s cell with the intent to harass

  • Trolling - continuously following an individual, posting provocative messages to elicit flaming or bait them into an altercation

#4 - Open conversations prevent cyberbullying. The more aware teens are of the consequences, and the more parents are aware of the goings-on, the more able we are to catch cyberbullying before it leads to the unthinkable.

If your school doesn’t yet have a district-wide bullying response plan that includes cyberbullying, it’s time to rethink your stance and get policies in place that align with the state of California. Prevention is key, but awareness provides power.


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