Cyber Security Awareness Month - Day 13 - Online Bullying

Published: 2010-10-13
Last Updated: 2010-10-14 13:51:38 UTC
by Deborah Hale (Version: 3)
8 comment(s)

Cyber Bullying/Harassment

The Internet is an amazing tool; it is full of valuable information and resources. However, just like any other tool, it is very dangerous if not properly used.

Among the dangers that await children is Cyber Bullying/Harassment. Chat rooms, profile rooms (such as and gaming rooms are among the most dangerous. These sites are not continuously monitored and have become an avenue for many types of bullying/hate speech. According to, 1 in 17 children have reported being threatened or harassed while online via email, IM or chat rooms. This accounts for an estimated 18% of actual abuse taking place.

There are many statistics available at and as well as other sites. These statistics indicate that the most likely victim of cyberbullying are young people age 10 to 14. In reality we just don’t know the extent of abuse. Much of this type of activity goes unreported. Many times children and teens are afraid to talk to a parent, teacher or other adult for fear they will lose their privileges to use the Internet or they fear other types of reprimand.

With the increase in Cell Phones with data connections we have seen additional problems. We now have bullying going on with text messaging as well.  With a computer connection kids may be a little more cautious about what they do because there is a chance that mom and dad may come across information on the computer.  With a cell phone unless mom and dad get ahold of the cell phone, they have no idea what is going on.  Many of the data phones now make Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites as easy to use on the phone as it is on the computer.  Many young people also wrongly believe that it is harder to track things done on a cell phone than on the computer.  Now we add to the mixture IPods, IPads, etc and we have even more avenues for possible attack.  

Many young people everyday receive threatening, harassing or vicious communications while using these devices. Many go unreported.  The sad reality is by the time we identify that a child is a victim it may be too late.  We hear stories on a regular basis about young people who are being bullied.  Many of these stories end with the suicide. As in the cause of Ryan Patrick Halligan  I first heard of Ryan's story through the information that I received from I-Safe.  I have watched the video many times and each time it tears my heart out.  Ryan is just one of hundreds of children that chose that end.  

I am a volunteer for Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC).  As a volunteer I visit schools in our area and talk to kids about Cyber Safety - about Cyber Bullying.  I always try to emphasis that this is a very serious problem, a very serious issue.  I assure the kids that there are people like me who will listen, who do care.  I also assure them that this too will pass.  At the end of the presentation on Bullying I ask the kids to close their eyes.  I walk them through their life, graduation day - the empty seat next to them that should have been occupied by Ryan or one of the other hundreds that have taken their own life. I ask them to fast forward 25 years -  their child is in school and is being bullied, fast forward 40 years, their grandchild in school being bullied. I ask them to try to imagine how these things feel. I ask them to think about Ryan and all of the other children, think about their future and how they would feel if it were them that caused this pain.  I receive feedback from teachers, parents and students that this walk through time has had a tremendous impact on some of the kids.  They say that the next in class a lot of the kids want to talk about what they have heard. As I tell them and I truly mean it.... If I can save just one child....  just one Ryan I will feel as though I have accomplished something.

The Internet is a tremendous place, full of knowledge and adventure. It is a wide open, vast array of information, both good and bad. It is a place that can hold the key to education or the key to tragedy. There are no borders on the Internet, no boundaries. It is just as easy and fast to get to your local television station web site as it is to get to Korea, Japan, Germany or Russia.

It is important that we encourage our children, young people and teens to use this tool. However, we as adults need to become more diligent in monitoring and guiding the use of the Internet.

This education must start early. We need to talk to our children about the things that they see, the dangers that exist, and what they need to do to protect themselves from the Bullies.

For more information see:


Let us hear from you.  Do you have any tips?  Any good informational websites that you would like to share?  Let us know.


Deb Hale Long Lines, LLC

8 comment(s)


While none of my kids have the victim of cyber bullying, yet, the oldest (8) has been the victim of face-to-face bullying.

I think the method for preparing your kids for dealing with both would be similar.

We are trying to teach our kids how to minimize the effect of, self-heal from, and how to seek help with verbal attacks. And we teach them (and role play with them) how to seek help when the attacks become physical.

Each child has a different level of sensitivity and a different level of belief in what others say about them, so the approach takes a lot of individualization (i15n) with each kid. Some kids need to be reassured every 15 minutes that "that bully does not understand you and says bad things that are not true just to make him/herself feel better". While with others you just need to tell them "you know the truth, they don't, and I see the good in you, even if they can't" only once and they are okay. (I have one of each.)
Thanks for the writeup Deb.
I had scheduled myself to do an article on cyberbullying for my company, but was told to cover information classification first. That's done so, now the cyberbully news letter is my first priority.
Deb thank you for this article that accents a growing problem with children and teens. I'd also say a big issue with cyber bullying today vice what it was prior to the big boom of internet and social websites and such is that generally when a kid is getting bullied at school they had home to escape to and with more and more tools that can access the internet from anywhere kids nowadays have no escape from the constant torment that kids their own age can impart on them. Hopefully through the intervention of family and strong support kids will learn to deal with these types of bullying before it does become something tragic. Once again thank you for the excellent article of something every parent should be paying attention to.
I want to thank all of you for your comments. As BrianB indicated home used to be a place that the victim could escape too. Not the case any longer. You only have to sit with the grieving parents or friends once to understand the importance of the education and support. Nathan is correct as well, some kids don't care what others think of them. Bullying has no affect on them. While others take it to heart and have their self esteem ripped apart. I have dealt with the bully and the victim. Each has their own pain to deal with. There is a reason why these bullies do what they do. We need to help them deal with their pain as much as we need to help their victims.

I value the comments of each and everyone of you.
One thing to note, Thursday and Friday the C3 conference was held near washington DC, (university of Maryland College park to be exact)

Several good speakers gave topics to educators to get them to help teach kids how to avoid and what to do if you are bulllied. One excellent resource is the FTC's site ( IIRC)

It has some excellent information and is one more tool to add to the arsenal.

Keep up the good work people you are actually making a difference.

~Loyal SANS reader since 2003
While I agree that supporting the victim is important, I think we are significantly missing the boat if we don't push parents, teachers, bus drivers, religious officials, etc... to have zero tolerance for the person doing the bullying. Parents of bullies should be responsible for their children and other officials should be driving the message home to parents and kids that bullying should not be tolerated AND that there will be consequences.
Eric - Thanks for that link. That site has some great information. I have added it to the list.
EVVJSK - You are correct we as a society must have zero tolerance. Parents need to understand that this is a serious problem. If their child is being a bully they need to step up to the plate. If their child is being bullied they need to understand that it is a serious problem that can have life long consequences if not dealt with. I encourage all parents to talk to their children about what is happening in their world. Other adults need to make sure that they are aware of the environment around them. They need to learn to recognize the signs and know what to do when they see a problem. It does indeed take a village to raise a child... these are the leaders of tomorrow and we need to help them be strong.

Good topic and great information. I myself have given a number of talks at local schools as well and find it very rewarding. The most important thing parents can do is get involved in their kids lives online and off the computer. Something that parents should be aware of is the difference between policy and enforcement. Schools can often say they have a policy of zero tolerance toward bullying but may take a different stance when they have to enforce it. Many of us may have see this attitude in the corporate world. I think parents that find their children bullied at school should make sure they know the schools policy so the parents can point back at the policy should the schools get a bit weak in the knees when it comes to enforcement of their zero tolerance policy on bullying. Again, great material!

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