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Bully Byte Blog - Victims Need Help Too!

just read an article by Nirvi Shah about cyber bullying on Edweek.org and it confirmed a number of my concerns regarding the victims of bullying and identified important issues we must be aware of when working with victims and their families.  

Shah’s article focuses on a newcomer to the social-networking scene called Formspring.me. The site has capitalized on the popularity of online quizzes and created a platform where users can ask and answer questions in an attempt to get to know each other better. The problem is that Formspring allows users to remain anonymous which has open up a new avenue for individuals to harass and embarrass others.

 

Shah gives numerous examples of some of the mean spirited and awful things people have posted about others on the site and there’s no doubt that this kind of speech can be very harmful. But what attracted my attention was the fact that “users can choose whether to accept questions from people who hide their names.” In fact, the questions are private to the user unless they’re answered and then and only then are they made public. A user can also choose to block another user from asking them anymore questions.

I’ve always wondered why someone would open an email or read a text message from someone they don’t know and even if they did, why they wouldn’t immediately block that person’s email address or phone number after a negative message was received. I get junk mail everyday and simply delete it without opening it. I then add the sender to my junk mail list so I won’t have to be bothered in the future. Why wouldn’t someone who’s being harassed do the same thing with an electronic message of dubious origins?

Shah writes that, “Even if students have been burned, they often don’t have the willpower to disconnect from the website that was the source of the insults”. Justin W. Patchin, one of the co-founders of Cyberbullying Research Center is quoted as saying, “It’s the reality TV fad: You want to be where the action is. Students have told me they feel it’s safer to be on these sites with their bullies. They can see what they’re saying about them and maybe win them over. From the logic of a teenager, it makes sense.”

One school counselor was quoted as saying, “It’s a drug. It’s like online crack.” This reminds my of one of the first things I was taught as a counselor/coach which was that clients are more comfortable with the pain they know then the pain they don’t. Most of us will wallow in the misery that we’re familiar with as opposed to dealing with the uncertainty of change.

As a behaviorist, this is where the real work of personal growth must begin. By identifying and questioning the self defeating thoughts and ideas that keep us stuck, we can begin to make progress even if the person who is the believed “cause” of the pain is unrepentant or unwilling to change. If you were working with a person who was constantly being burned by standing to close to an open fire, common sense would mandate that you address the compunction to stand there in the first place before you deal with the fire itself.

Next time will look at another issue that Shah addresses which is how schools are trying to deal with issues that originate off campus but cause problems for students at school.  Namaste

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