Responding to Victims of Cyberbullying
Hale Guyer, Jayne Hitchcock  -  2012/9/26
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
Does it count as cyberbullying if the offender uses an online status post out of context in order to spread false rumors to the victim's family and friends? What is the best way for the victimized child to respond?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 As Hale wrote, it really depends on your state’s laws (or the state where the person posting lives) and how it is worded. Online harassment is defined by the US Dept of Justice as repeated online communications after the offender has clearly been told to stop. We always advise victims to respond *once* to the person harassing/bullying them with a simple, “Please stop communicating with me” or “Please stop posting things about me.” Then we advise them to keep an eye on things and report (and block) anything that may be posted, but to NOT respond to the person anymore. If it continues, we can offer free help at our web site – haltabusektd.org for kids/teens and parents and haltabuse.org for those over 18.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I would consider that bullying or harassment. The best way to respond is to report that person to the web site or Internet Service Provider and block them, if possible. They should also tell a trusted adult what is going on and to NOT respond directly to the bully.
 
3.  Hale
 So basically, the answer to your question will be found within your specific laws and how they are worded. A lot of States are attempting to “catch-up” with technology by re-writing or introducing new laws that will address current issues. The ultimate authority on what specific actions will be prosecutable will be your local prosecuting attorney. As always, the best way for the victimized child to respond to any type of online harassment is to tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult.
 
4.  Hale
 Your situation depends on how your specific State statute is worded. Here in Illinois there are several laws that can pertain to cyber bullying. Our cyber stalking law has been written to include language referring to the use of technology to cause “emotional distress”. We also have a law called “Harassment Through Electronic Communications” where you will find wording prohibiting the transmitting of an electronic communication for the purpose of harassing another person who is under 13 years of age.
 
 
is this information research based? If so, could you provide your sources and/or references? Thank you.
 
1.  Hale
 Not much (if any) information I will be giving is research based. It is from cases of mine, cases I have assisted other agencies on, and cases I have learned about from my law enforcement students.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 The University of New Hampshire has done some wonderful work in regards to cyberbullying and studies about it – check them out at http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/cyberbullying.html
 
 
a)Is victimization act as a factor for subsequent cyber-bullying? b) Is cyber bullying a gender or race specific one.
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I think that social networking and other web sites make it easier for a bully to "anonymously" taunt their victim. That is why you are seeing such an increase in such incidents. But as long as the victim follows through with recognizing it's cyberbullying, reporting it and blocking the person, then the bully is likely going to stop (at least, I hope so). In past experience with victims, when the bully or stalker is reported and the ISP or web site does something about it, they do stop.
 
2.  Deepa
 You mentioned about female category. Is there any particular age group with in this category. Also do you think differential association has an effect on cyber bullying? Do you feel cyber and social networking addiction can result in more victimization?
 
3.  Hale
 As in regular bullying, there can be specific traits that can make a child a target. Low self-esteem, race, religion, sexual preferences etc. Also not knowing/following some rules on how to prevent victimization and not reporting it can also play a part in subsequent acts. As far as gender or race specific, in the cases I see both the bully and the victim have a tendency to be more female than male, and mostly Caucasian I believe my co-host has done a statistical breakdown along these lines.
 
4.  Jayne Hitchcock
 if you are asking if a victim has a cyberbully after them, are they more like to be cyberbullied again, there is no definitive answer. There is always that chance, but there is no certainty it will happen again.
 
 
1) How often does Cyberbullying occur and in what age group is it mostly seen? 2) How do incidence of Cyberbullying get tracked?
 
1.  Hale
 E Holsted - I think more and more schools are learning that there are civil consequences for not reporting these types of crimes to the police. Hopefully this will encourage reporting to law enforcement, which may also assist in being an incentive for law enforcement to get more training. My Cyber Bulling/Stalking classes for law Enforcement are well attended just because of more and more cases hitting their desks that need to be deal with.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 The police will only get involved if there is a threat of physical harm or a death threat or if the victim is in fear for their life.
 
3.  E Holsted
 Does "the right people" include the police and if so, when? Only after the website, etc. have been notified? Only if the cyberbullying persists or the victim feels his/her life is in danger? Thank you for your responses.
 
4.  Jayne Hitchcock
 The right people are either the web site (such as Facebook or Twitter), the web site owner (if it's a privately owned web site), the Internet Service Provider, cell phone provider, etc.
 
5.  E Holsted
 Can you clarify as to who the "right people" are in Step 3, please?
 
6.  Hale
 I will address the first part of Matt’s question as far as how often does Cyber bullying occur. Depending on the study, you will get varying answers and mostly because the information is obtained from students/youths themselves answering questionnaires. What I would like to stress is that not all law enforcement agencies separately categorizing this crime, and some unfortunately are not even getting involved in accepting the reports unless they have become extreme. Some are lumping them with disorderly conduct / disturbance type calls.
 
7.  Jayne Hitchcock
 1. There aren’t many studies done about this, but your best bet would be to see what the University of New Hampshire has been doing - http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/cyberbullying.html 2. The first reaction is pretty much always to defend themselves, which will lead to an escalation of the situation. We teach kids, teens and adults the three “R’s” – Recognize that is it bullying; Refuse it by responding once to the bully with a simple “Stop contacting me” and not responding after that; and Reporting it to the right people and make sure they keep everything, no matter how much it hurts them.
 
 
What are some typical responses of victims to cyber bullying and are there certain responses that are more typical for specific ages of victims?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 The first reaction is pretty much always to defend themselves, which will lead to an escalation of the situation. We teach kids, teens and adults the three “R’s” – Recognize that is it bullying; Refuse it by responding once to the bully with a simple “Stop contacting me” and not responding after that; and Reporting it to the right people and make sure they keep everything, no matter how much it hurts them.
 
2.  Hale
 I don’t know if there is a “typical” response, but common responses I have seen are: withdrawing, even lower self-esteem, emotional stress, avoidance of technology (computer/cell phone), avoidance of school or extra-curricular activities.
 
 
What steps should schools take to address this issue? What responsibility do schools have both legally and ethically to address this issue? Policy recommendations are welcome. Thank you.
 
1.  Hale
 The Illinois School Code contains the Internet Safety Education Curriculum Act suggesting that school districts initiate an Internet Safety program, age specific, to address several different topics, including “recognizing and reporting online harassment and cyber-bullying.” The act is Illinois Compiled Statutes 105 ILCS 5 School Code. Section 27-13.3 and can be read at www.ilga.gov (Illinois General Assembly). It would make a nice policy recommendation.
 
2.  Hale
 In my State, and I believe every other State now, it is a crime to threaten, stalk, or bully someone either by the use of technology, or otherwise. Schools should treat this crime as they would treat the reporting of any other crime. It would depend on your school code/state statutes if they have a legal responsibility to take action, but there are many examples where there have been successful civil suits filed against school districts for their non-action.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Schools need to take bullying and cyberbullying seriously. So many of them let the students basically “duke it out” and do nothing. It needs to be addressed with bringing in people to talk about it (like what I do for schools), creating a policy and adhering to that policy. If a student or parents complains to the principal, VP, etc about a bullying situation, they need to not only be sensitive to the victim, but make sure the bully is appropriately taken care of. It really depends on the situation and they need to have appropriate punishment for every situation that may happen. This could be suspension, detention after school, community service, or if the situation falls under the state’s cyberstalking laws, possible jail time and fines.
 
 
I've heard of kids being stalked through gaming consoles. What are some of the ways predators infiltrate children's lives that parents should be aware of?
 
1.  Daphne
 I am working on an abuse prevention program for Childhelp (targeting youth athletes). What are simple kid-friendly tips to avoid Cyberbullying?
 
2.  Hale
 I've heard of kids being stalkedExactly right - Internet access is everywhere now it seems. Game systems, ipods, cell phones, smart TV’s & blueray players to name a few. Hundreds of apps allow chat, instant messages, and video messaging through smart phones without ever having the need to be at a regular pc.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Any kind of online game where players can interact and chat with each other can result in bullying or stalking situations, either on a gaming console, computer, tablet or cell phone. We have links on our site on how to put parental controls on computers, cell phones and consoles at http://www.haltabusektd.org/resources/index.html
 
 
Asked on behalf of students in Victimology course @ Becker College... What are the best ways (best practices) to help victims of cyberbullying? Thank you.
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Take cyberbullying seriously. Don’t think it’s a minor problem that will go away because “kids will be kids.” These days, kids and teens can be bullied 24/7 because of the Internet and cell phones. It used to be that you’d get a reprieve at night, on weekends, holidays and vacation. Listen to a victim, make sure they’ve kept everything and then help them report it to the correct web site, ISP, etc. If there have been threats of physical harm, make sure they and/or their parents file a police report and get the situation taken care of before it escalates. And they can always come to us for free help at http://www.haltabusektd.org
 
2.  Hale
 Afternoon Professor - By communicating with the child. This can also go a long way towards prevention. Instead of just handing them a smart phone/laptop and assuming they will know how to operate it safely, and know what to do if they do start to get bullied is expecting a lot. Parents need to take an active role. Teaching the child not to respond to messages of that nature, and how to report these incidents is valuable. So is instructing them how to save/document electronic communications if the threats need evidence to be prosecuted.
 
 
Asked on behalf of students in Victimology course at Becker College... How do you deal with and assist a victim who has brought this upon themselves by posting inappropriate pictures/comments? Should you be as sensitive towards them? Thank you.
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 No one should be bullied, whether or not it’s because of what they posted. Yes, you should be sensitive and help them remove whatever has been posted and let them know they should think carefully about what they post from now on. Anything online is there forever, even after deleted, because of archives and such. So what they post can and will be used against them later on in life and could affect going to college, getting a job, and even a relationship.
 
2.  Hale
 I have a hard time with the philosophy of someone making a mistake so they “deserve what they get.” There can be many reasons why wrong decisions are made. And remember, not that many adults are aware of the traps and dangers that technology brings with it – so who is teaching the kids on how to make the right decisions? In a lot of ways they are on their own to forge through the tricks and traps.
 
 
There is a lot of research on victimization (specifically, cybervictims) but not a lot on parents or their responsibilities. How can parents and victims reach out to each other more (for help and prevention)?
 
1.  Hale
 Parents need to understand the basics of social network sites, and preferably be on their child’s sites as a “friend or buddy”. It is also easier for the child to report something that is happening online to someone they know will understand what they are talking about.
 
2.  Hale
 There are many organizations out there just for the purpose of education and prevention. My esteemed co-host is President of an organization at www.haltabuse.org which is one I refer to many. Also as far as parent’s responsibilities, I strongly feel parents need to educate themselves on some of the technology that can be abused. It is difficult to teach someone to drive responsibly if the person doing the teaching/supervising has never owned a car. The same analogy is true when it comes to the Internet. I tell the same thing to my law enforcement students. You might personally never have a desire to have a Facebook, or use Twitter, but if you are in a position to receive a report of misuse, or if you are a parent you at least need an understanding on how these things work.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Looking for online resources is a great start. Besides our web site at haltabusektd.org, we also have a Facebook and Yahoo group specifically for parents and kids/teens. You may want to think about starting your own group and offer safety tips, let people tell their stories, etc.
 
 
How can I get additional training resources about cyber bullying?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 We have some good resources on our site at http://www.haltabusektd.org/resources/index.html and I would highly recommend netsmartz.org - they have powerpoints, videos and more
 
 
How do rural polic authorities successfuly address this issue with limited manpower and resources?
 
1.  Hale
 Lisa - I did my entire career in a rural law enforcement agency. If we lacked the expertise, we would reach out to the Sheriff's Office, State Police, or Attorney General's Office for Assistance.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 It all depends on the situation. Sometimes the police don't need to be involved. But, if they do, they could consider bringing in someone to speak to students and parents about cyberbullying (like what I do) or have a town meeting to address the issue.
 
 
What can parents do to try to prevent cyberbullying? What types of information or training should parents receive in order to be more aware of this issue?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 There is no way to completely prevent cyberbullying. Parents should sit down with their children and talk to them about it. They should let their children know that they can go to their parents with any concerns and that there will be no repercussions. A lot of kids are afraid they will be punished if they tell someone they are being bullied. They need the reassurance that they will be listened to. netsmartz.org has some great info for parents, as does our web site at haltabusektd.org
 
 
What is the best advice you could give to kids about how to respond to a bully?
 
1.  Jenn Coffman
 Thank you! I definitely really like your suggestion about the three R's. I've already shared it with a coworker.
 
2.  Hale
 Don't. Don't respond. Then block them, then report them to a parent, teacher, or law enforcement.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 1. Respond to the cyberbully with a simple, "Please stop contacting me," then do not respond after that, but do keep everything the bully may continue to send. 2. Report it to the web site, ISP, etc and tell a trusted adult what is going on. They should also block the person if they can. 3. If it continues and the people they reported it to have done nothing, they can always come to us for free help - we never contact the cyberbully. We try to help resolve the situation before it escalates. On our site at haltabusektd.org, click on Need Help?, then follow the instructions there.
 
 
Many schools have anti-bullying policies. In Ohio, it's required. Implementing cyber-bullying policies seems more challenging for school administrators. What suggestions do you have for implementing cyberbullying policies in schools? What legal obligations are schools under to fully address these issues?
 
1.  Hale
 Again, it depends on the specific laws/school codes. See my answer regarding this for the cite for the Illinois School Code which specifically addresses this. Also, it is my firm belief that either law enforcement, or victim-witness advocates need to do whatever training is required. Sometimes the schools opt for the easy way out and get their IT or network person to talk about Internet Safety. Unfortunately the expertise is usually not there pertaining to this subject.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I may have to defer to Hale on the legal issues, but schools can look online to see what other schools are doing for cyberbullying policies and create their own. Doing a Google search for cyberbullying policies brought up a lot of results and should give any school an idea of what they should be doing.
 
 
How much hard evidence is usually needed in a cyberbullying case in order to file an injunction for protection?
 
1.  Hale
 Your question is pertaining to civil laws. In criminal, you would need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone. Again, depending on your State, I'm not sure if any "hard evidence" beyond the victim's statements would be required. The question would be best answered from an attorney within your Jurisdiction.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 To file a protection or restraining order, there must be proof that the victim is in fear of their life. Printed out copies of the threats is important, so any communications received from the bully must be kept, no matter how horrible it makes your child feel. If it's email messages, than you need to provide full headers. We have instructions on how to do this at our site at http://www.haltabusektd.org/help/header.html
 
 
What is the best way to respond to cyberbullying as a counselor, when you know the student being bullied online is also instigating (per other students), but will not admit to their instigating behavior.
 
1.  Hale
 Again, I'm pretty pro-enforcement, so my answer will reflect that. What you are describing are 2 potential criminal acts. There are many law enforcement agencies that are trained in this area, and may have resources you don't have as a counselor (power of subpoena, or the threat of one...etc.)
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I'm not sure I understand - if you mean that the victim is also bullying back, they need to stop. If they don't, then it will come back to bite them and they could get in trouble for being as bad as the bully. They need to know that getting others riled up, even though it's defensive, is not the answer.
 
 
Are teen girls mostly cyberbullied by boys? And what are the targeted issues.? please, Thank you
 
1.  Lisa Alley
 Cyber bullying can occur from both male or female. I agree that the source of this harassment can stem from some source of jealousy or rivalry amongst the individual assaulting the victim. Cyber bullying can be a dangerous crime and should be taken seriously as it can result further harassment leading to stalking. As a parent or instructor the youth need to be educated on safety precautions and consequences related to the actions of cyber bullying.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 In my experience, teen girls are bullied by other girls, but many times it is a combination of boys and girls (such as Phoebe Prince) bullying one girl. It can start as someone being jealous of the girl's clothing (such as being a "goth"), wearing glasses, having dated someone more popular than they were, just about anything.
 
3.  Hale
 My co-host has an entire statistical breakdown on her WHOA site - I will defer to her.
 
 
School districts are being innundated by complaints from parents and students about offensive and bullying posts. Due to new and more restrictive bullying laws in California, schools can no longer just ignore such reports. However, the nexus between out of school postings and in school disruption is difficult to prove. We are always looking for information from other schools that will help with this issue. Anyone out there with any input?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Well, you can see what time the posts or emails have been made and that would determine whether it was in school or outside of school. But (and I'm sure Hale can expand on this), if it's a combination of both, that means it's repeated communications, which is technically cyberstalking. This means the school and parents will have to decide whether that constitutes getting the police involved or a sitdown with the bully's parents to try to resolve the situation. Again, the victim needs to keep everything, no matter how awful it is or humiliating. That is so important with these situations. Again, each situation is different and it's something that the school needs to talk with the parents involved about.
 
 
If our school has an SRO, is it their responsibility to handle the cyberbullying of our students?
 
1.  Hale
 If that is the way your school district has it set up. There should be procedures in place. However, this does not preclude others (teachers, etc.) from being able to respond to incidents, give qualified advice, and confer with the SRO.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Yes, it should be. I know it is here in Maine. When I do my talks at schools, the SRO is always there and I let them say a bit about the fact that they are there for the students if bullying is happening online or offline. A lot of students don't realize they can talk to the SRO. I would highly recommend any school who has an SRO to let them handle the bullying/cyberbullying.
 
 
are there any free fliers or posters that can be printed and shared as a warning and as a way to promote reporting?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 We have some on our site at haltabusektd.org and I think netsmartz.org has some as well.
 
 
when the bullying turns sexual and gets pictures involved is it automatically criminal? Also, should anything be done differently towards the victim?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 Also, netsmartz.org has some good info about this: http://www.netsmartz.org/sexting
 
2.  Hale
 There are many attempts by various States to update their laws to address these types of issues. Even though many feel that juveniles "sexting" shouldn't be treated as Felonies, if the old laws are still on the books and have not been amended, they can still be prosecuted.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 See this for a survey that was done: http://www.pcsndreams.com/Pages/Sexting_Statistics.html
 
4.  Jayne Hitchcock
 If the victim and/or the other person are under the age of 18, it is considered child pornography. So anyone who received that photo can be charged, if the police get involved. This could get them jail time, a fine and possibly having to register as a sex offender (often for the rest of their lives). When I do my talks, I mention this and it really shocks the students. They just think of it as a "present" to their boyfriend or girlfriend, or a joke to their friend, not realizing they have committed a criminal act.
 
 
Is there any document or resource guide that can help school personnel determine what constitutes being handled by the school vs. what should be handled outside of school jurisdiction? The whole aspect of things online carrying over to the schools seems cumbersome to most schools here in CPS.
 
1.  Mark Liston
 I developed the Bullying Rubric for use by schools based on the federal definition of bullying. It is peer-reviewed and proven effective to determine what is a bullying incident and its severity. I'll send you a free pdf. mark@characterchallenge.org
 
2.  Hale
 No magic guide on what should be reported to law enforcement and what should be kept in-house. Some of these decisions are going to have to be evaluated by the school attorney as to what type of civil ramifications can arise by not reporting a crime to the police.
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I don't know of any guide - maybe Hale does. But if there is a threat of physical harm, a death threat, or the victim fears for their life, the police definitely need to get involved.
 
 
Is there any evidence to suggest that a cyber-bully is more or less likely to become a cyber-stalker? Likewise, are victims more likely to become stalking targets or stalkers later in life? Any longitudinal studies ongoing/planned?
 
1.  Jayne Hitchcock
 I have to respond to Hale's comments - half of the cyberstalking victims we see do NOT know their stalker. Of the ones who do, yes, it is exes, but also family members, coworkers, fellow students, former friends. And over the years, where in the beginning it was mostly male cyberstalkers, we have recently seen an almost 50/50 of females and males being cyberstalkers. You can view our statistics at http://www.haltabuse.org/resources/stats/index.shtml
 
2.  Hale
 I am not aware of any studies along these lines, but in Cyber Stalking incidents, very frequently you are looking at ex-husbands, ex-boy-friends, and the motive is revenge. (Sometimes women are the instigators, but most often men with prior relationships)
 
3.  Jayne Hitchcock
 If the cyberbully isn't reported and gets away with it, I could see a distinct possibility that they will become a cyberstalker. However, if they are caught and punished and know they can't get away with it, then it's less likely they will try to do anything like that again. As for victims, I would hope they would learn from the experience how to stay safer online and how to respond if they do become stalked later in life. That is why we have our ogranizations, haltabusektd.org for kids/teen under 18 and haltabuse.org for adults over 18.
 
 
Some states have harassment prevention orders that can be sought in civil court. Is this an avenue you would recommend for victims & parents, or is it problematic since it may result in a mutual order against the victim? Especially given earlier posts on victims becoming the bullies.
 
1.  Crystal
 I think that is something that can be suggested to the victim. However, the backlash of this route should also be discussed with the victim. The victim should be given possibilities of what could take place in order to make an informed decision. It is sad that these crimes need to be taken to civil court. They should be addressed in criminal court if the acts happening are criminal. I also think harassment that occurs online should warrant grounds for an order of protection. Which should prohibit the offender from discussing the victim at all.
 
2.  Jayne Hitchcock
 If the victim fears for their life, then yes, I'd recommend a protective order.
 
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