Cyberbullying: Beyond Schoolyard Teasing and Taunting
PHOENIX - Kids have teased and taunted each other for generations, but the wireless age is allowing youngsters to extend their harmful reach in the form of cyber-bullying. Using technology to threaten or humiliate peers can range from sending a mean text message to posting photos or videos on public Internet sites for the world to see.
Psychologist Dr. William Hansen says it's a problem that has risen exponentially in the past several years.
"It's increasing dramatically because the use of the Internet, Facebook, or Myspace, or tweeting, it's just so more available that certainly high schoolers today face this, and have to make those choices about how they use the Internet wisely."
Dr. Hansen says cyberbullying is often anonymous, but has public consequences that can magnify the damaging effects to the victim.
"The negative effects can include, but they're not limited to, fear, shame, insecurity, heightened anxiety, depression and potential suicidal ideation or suicide."
Preventing cyberbullying can begin at home, and Dr. Hansen recommends that parents pay very close attention to all their kids' online communication. And he says friends and those who witness bullying behavior can also play a vital role.
"Don't stand by, do something - even facing the chance that one might be wrong or misinterpreting the situation. It's very important to understand that the devastation of bullying in any form is potentially catastrophic."
He says health-care providers can be a resource for families. In addition, since harassment is a crime, he advises victims of cyberbullying to notify law enforcement to determine when that line has been crossed.
As part of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's wife, Nicole Stanton, hosted an anti-bullying summit. She is also reaching out to mayors' wives in Tucson, Tempe and Mesa to make her program a statewide initiative.