Kids Face a New Breed of Bully

Sept. 3, 2006 — -- Once only found on the playground and the school bus, bullies have a new venue for tormenting fellow students: the Internet.

Now school-age bullies attack their classmates with just the click of a mouse. A new national poll said one in every three children between the ages of 12 and 17 is the victim of cyberbullying.

"Unfortunately, we are living in a culture of meanness," said Alane Fagin, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services. "A culture of incivility. We are seeing a lot more of the verbal bullying," said Alane Fagin, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services.

Scars More Than Physical

When Jacqui Garcia was 16, she became a victim of cyberbullying after someone posted a disturbing profile on her on the Web. One site posted this message on Jacqui: "She is mad pale and rocks bright red lipstick with long jet black hair and she scared people with her hideous face."

The posting left Jacqui physically shaken.

"I became physically sick. I didn't want to go to school. I was shaking," Garcia said. "Sometimes at night I would lock my door and just cry."

The Web page was eventually removed, but Jaqui transferred to another school.

Victims of cyberbullying are often more emotionally injured than those who are physically attacked in a schoolyard, according to experts.

"A kid wants to go online. That kid could be barraged with e-mails that constantly humiliate or harass the victim," Fagin said. "When you see schoolyard bullying, the victim can just leave. You don't see that with cyberbullying."

"There are laws protecting students against direct threats," said Joseph Guidetti, former principal of Calabasas High School. "You have to recognize that that's going on and you have to be proactive."

How to Deal with Bullies

To help kids cope with both traditional and cyberbullying, Dr. Sherryll Kraizer, a staff developer at Denver Public Schools, recommends that parents and children follow these tips.

Tips for Parents

1. Be proactive. Talk to your kids about what bullying is and the different forms it can take: physical, verbal and general intimidation.

2. Practice. Set up hypothetical situations with your kids. Ask them what they would do if someone demanded their lunch money.

Tips for Kids

1. Be assertive. If facing a bully, be assertive and standup for yourself. You can do this with eye contact and good posture.

2. Walk away. If someone starts bullying you, just walk away.

3. If it happens, tell someone. You aren't being a tattletale if you're not trying to get anyone in trouble. Telling an adult is always good when you can't handle the situation yourself. Also, tell someone early: the longer the bullying goes on, the harder it is to stop.

4. There's power in numbers. Stay in groups -- walk to school with a buddy, sit with friends at lunch and stick with kids you know on the playground. This will discourage would-be bullies from pouncing.