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IM, Web Sites, and Texts, Oh My!

A photo of an overweight student taken by a camera phone in a locker room circulates to her classmates. A vicious rumor about an eighth-grade girl is spread via instant messenger. A Web site devoted to poking fun of a classmate invites students to post their own “flames” about her.

With the proliferation of telecommunications, social aggression has gone high-tech, where “cyberbullies,” hiding behind anonymity and leveraging the wide reach of the Internet, stalk their prey around the clock. Instead of passing notes in class or whispering secrets in the schoolyard, students use cell phones, text messages, e-mails, instant messaging, and digital cameras as tools to tease and taunt their victims from anywhere, at any time.

“In many cases, cyberbullying appears to be an extension of in-school bullying, either as a continuation or in retaliation,” says Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

“Cyberbullying is potentially more emotionally damaging to young people because online communications can be very vicious, the harm is ongoing, the audience vast, the bullies can be anonymous and can solicit the involvement of online ‘buddies,’ and many youth are afraid to tell any adult.”

Along with leading to school failure and avoidance, cyberbullying has also been linked to school violence and suicide. For information on how to recognize and help stop it, visit: