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US-CERT Cyber Security Tip ST06-005 -- Dealing with Cyberbullies

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  • Eggers, Ken F.
    Ken Ken F. Eggers The MITRE Corporation 202 324-6406 (sponsor office) 703 300-6060 (cell) keggers@mitre.org ... From: US-CERT Security Tips
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2011
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      Ken F. Eggers
      The MITRE Corporation
      202 324-6406 (sponsor office)
      703 300-6060 (cell)

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: US-CERT Security Tips [mailto:security-tips@...]
      Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2011 03:52 PM
      To: security-tips@... <security-tips@...>
      Subject: US-CERT Cyber Security Tip ST06-005 -- Dealing with Cyberbullies

      Hash: SHA1

      Cyber Security Tip ST06-005
      Dealing with Cyberbullies

      Bullies are taking advantage of technology to intimidate and harass their
      victims. Dealing with cyberbullying can be difficult, but there are steps
      you can take.

      What is cyberbullying?

      Cyberbullying refers to practice of using technology to harass, or bully,
      someone else. Bullies used to be restricted to methods such as physical
      intimidation, postal mail, or the telephone. Now, developments in electronic
      media offer forums such as email, instant messaging, web pages, and digital
      photos to add to the arsenal. Computers, cell phones, and PDAs are current
      tools that are being used to conduct an old practice.

      Forms of cyberbullying can range in severity from cruel or embarrassing
      rumors to threats, harassment, or stalking. It can affect any age group;
      however, teenagers and young adults are common victims, and cyberbullying is
      a growing problem in schools.

      Why has cyberbullying become such a problem?

      The relative anonymity of the internet is appealing for bullies because it
      enhances the intimidation and makes tracing the activity more difficult.
      Some bullies also find it easier to be more vicious because there is no
      personal contact. Unfortunately, the internet and email can also increase
      the visibility of the activity. Information or pictures posted online or
      forwarded in mass emails can reach a larger audience faster than more
      traditional methods, causing more damage to the victims. And because of the
      amount of personal information available online, bullies may be able to
      arbitrarily choose their victims.

      Cyberbullying may also indicate a tendency toward more serious behavior.
      While bullying has always been an unfortunate reality, most bullies grow out
      of it. Cyberbullying has not existed long enough to have solid research, but
      there is evidence that it may be an early warning for more violent behavior.

      How can you protect yourself or your children?

      * Teach your children good online habits - Explain the risks of
      technology, and teach children how to be responsible online (see Keeping
      Children Safe Online for more information). Reduce their risk of
      becoming cyberbullies by setting guidelines for and monitoring their use
      of the internet and other electronic media (cell phones, PDAs, etc.).
      * Keep lines of communication open - Regularly talk to your children about
      their online activities so that they feel comfortable telling you if
      they are being victimized.
      * Watch for warning signs - If you notice changes in your child's
      behavior, try to identify the cause as soon as possible. If
      cyberbullying is involved, acting early can limit the damage.
      * Limit availability of personal information - Limiting the number of
      people who have access to contact information or details about
      interests, habits, or employment reduces exposure to bullies that you or
      your child do not know. This may limit the risk of becoming a victim and
      may make it easier to identify the bully if you or your child are
      * Avoid escalating the situation - Responding with hostility is likely to
      provoke a bully and escalate the situation. Depending on the
      circumstances, consider ignoring the issue. Often, bullies thrive on the
      reaction of their victims. Other options include subtle actions. For
      example, you may be able to block the messages on social networking
      sites or stop unwanted emails by changing the email address. If you
      continue to get messages at the new email address, you may have a
      stronger case for legal action.
      * Document the activity - Keep a record of any online activity (emails,
      web pages, instant messages, etc.), including relevant dates and times.
      In addition to archiving an electronic version, consider printing a
      * Report cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities - If you or your
      child are being harassed or threatened, report the activity. Many
      schools have instituted bullying programs, so school officials may have
      established policies for dealing with activity that involves students.
      If necessary, contact your local law enforcement. Law enforcement
      agencies have different policies, but your local police department or
      FBI branch are good starting points. Unfortunately, there is a
      distinction between free speech and punishable offenses, but the legal
      implications should be decided by the law enforcement officials and the

      Additional information

      The following organizations offer additional information about this topic:
      * National Crime Prevention Council - http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
      * StopBullying.gov - http://www.stopbullying.gov/

      Author: Mindi McDowell

      Produced 2006, 2011 by US-CERT, a government organization.

      Note: This tip was previously published and is being re-distributed
      to increase awareness.

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