"Cyberbullying" is when a child, tween, or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, tween, teen, or person using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, or mobile phones. It is instigated by one minor against another minor; once adults become involved, it is cyberstalking or cyberharassment. Adult cyberharassment or cyberstalking is not called cyberbullying unless the bully was disguising him or herself as a teenager (see example below).
The methods used are limited only by the person's imagination and access to technology. The cyberbully one moment may become the victim the next, as kids often change roles going from victim to bully and back again. This is of grave concern because reports indicate that children have killed each other and committed suicide after having been involved in a cyberbullying incident.
Cyberbullying is usually not a one time communication, unless it involves a death threat or a credible threat of serious bodily harm. Kids usually know it when they see it, while parents may be more worried about the lewd language used by the kids than the hurtful effect of rude and embarrassing posts.
Cyberbullying may arise to the level of a misdemeanor cyberharassment charge, or if the child is young enough may result in the charge of juvenile delinquency. Most of the time the cyberbullying does not go that far, although parents often try and pursue criminal charges. It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a terms of service violation. In some cases, if hacking or identity theft is involved, it can be a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.
Even though cyberbullying is associated with teens and children, adults engage in it too. Known as the "MySpace suicide" in May of 2008, a Missouri woman was accused of creating a fraudulent MySpace account (saying she was a 16-year-old boy) and using it to cyberbully a 13-year-old girl who later committed suicide (a former friend of one of her daughters). Read the full article here. In this instance, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles invoked a criminal statute more commonly used to go after computer hackers. The girl, Megan Meier, has become the poster child for cyberbullying, much like 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of the Amber Alert missing child program in the United States.
NetLingo Classification: Online Jargon
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