US-CERT Cyber Security Tip ST06-005 -- Dealing with Cyberbullies
Ken F. Eggers
The MITRE Corporation
202 324-6406 (sponsor office)
703 300-6060 (cell)
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Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2011 03:52 PM
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Subject: US-CERT Cyber Security Tip ST06-005 -- Dealing with Cyberbullies
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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
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.
This document can also be found at
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