Technology Expands Reach of Bullying

By Kaileigh Deacon

 

Technology is advancing at a rate that makes it almost impossible to stay up-to-date and on top of what is happening. The advancements have made it easier for families and friends to stay connected over long distances but it has also opened the internet up to a world of predators and bullies. 

For most teenagers school life is hard enough already. When the aggression of bullies is added, it becomes harder. In a world of Facebook, Twitter, and countless other social media sites and apps, the reach of bullies has gone far beyond the halls of schools to the wireless world of the internet. 

Cyberbullying has become a way for bullies, who would otherwise avoid face to face confrontation, to sit behind their devices and prey on kids.  According to the legal definition, bullying is repetitive behavior that is intentional and encourages an imbalance of power. Cyberbullying is the same, although the behavior is done over the internet. 

As apps and websites are developed every day, there are always new ways for kids to reach out over the internet to attack other kids. Apps like Sarahah allow for complete and total anonymity and are based out of the country. These kinds of apps make it easy for kids or anyone to verbally attack someone else and leave schools and police departments nothing to go on. 

As far as what schools and police departments can do in these situations, it depends on the incident. Incidents that are just one-time deals are considered just that – incidents – and do not constitute cyberbullying. When cyberbullying, which is repetitive and intentional, happens, schools can only handle those situations which take place in schools. “If it happens during school hours, on school devices, or comes into the school, we can take action,” Calais Middle High School Principal Mary Anne Spearin said. Such situations are handled as if they were bullying that was happening in the halls instead of on mobile devices. 

Unfortunately for most of those affected by cyberbullying, it takes place outside of school and, like regular bullying, often goes unreported. The biggest thing kids can do if they are being cyberbullied or know someone that is, is to report it to an adult they trust, whether someone in the school, a parent, relative or the police. 

Parents play a large part in getting a handle on cyberbullying. “Parents need to monitor their kids’ phones. Monitor the apps they use. Get their passwords and stay informed,” Sergeant Bill White of the Calais Police Department advises.  

In a world where technology is literally at our finger tips every day, along with a steady stream of new potential threats, we need to take the time to prepare ourselves with everything we can. Parents are the first line of defense in helping their kids stay safe online. Talk to your kids about online safety and make sure they know what they are doing online. 

The best thing you can do is report anything that you think might be suspicious and let all parties know. Let schools know if you notice a new app or website that seems suspicious so they can block it from school servers and take any incident you are unsure of to the police. 

Cyberbullying is a constantly evolving threat that allows the targeting of kids and teenagers through apps they think are safe.  “Just when you start to figure out one program, something new comes up,” Sergeant White said.