Wednesday, March 23, 2005


From the Oregonian:
The rise of cyberbullying -- the use of new communication technology to hurt others -- is affecting more and more middle and high school students, experts say. It's an insidious new form of bullying because those who do it can harass their victims anonymously, and away from adults' notice...

"It's like an electronic Dodge City," said Tim Drilling, principal of Lake Oswego's Lakeridge High School, referring to the brawling town in the long-running "Gunsmoke" television series. "Nobody seems to respect the behavioral norms -- it's wide open, people seem to be able to say whatever they want. You can be anonymous, and that seems to make people feel very free."

Attacks are vicious because the senders can be anonymous, said Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use in Eugene. "The social norms online seem to encourage disinhibition. Also, students often don't have any tangible feedback about how they're affecting someone..."

Cyberbullies "just rip into other kids, and they are so brutal and ruthless," said J.D. Gates, an 18-year-old senior at Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie. In the past year, he said he's come across more and more hurtful Web logs about classmates. "You can see that those kids (who've been cyberbullied) are unhappy about it. It's definitely hurtful."

...While parents have struggled to understand how cyberbullying happens, schools are only beginning to look for ways to fight it. Cyberbullying often happens off school premises and after hours, and experts say much of it is protected by free speech. If schools can identify the students who are doing it, they take measures to stop the cyberbullying, but tracking messages and Web log entries requires serious detective work.
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