George Keating, author and columnist from the Boston Globe recently authored an article title "What's Bullying?" Massachusetts new anti-bullying law is widely heralded as the most aggressive in the country. It criminalizes bullying and cyber-bullying by students, and requires schools to ferret out and respond to such incidents, many of which take place outside of school. Illinois cyberbullying laws are almost identical. However, utilizing those new laws are hampered by law enforcement's misunderstanding of the law as well as prosecutors not wanting to prosecuting juvenile offenders on crimes of this nature.

According to Mr. Keating his experience "as a former teacher, a parent of three children, and an attorney representing schools, the law, while well-intended, is fraught with problems and has already led to unintended and unfortunate consequences." Mr. Keating looks at the law similar to the No Child Left Behind Act, "No Teeth"  The most acute is how it impacts the critical relationship between schools and parents. The statute does not put any responsibility on parents to stop bullying. Worse, rather than foster a shared approach to stop such behavior, the statute actually undermines any meaningful communication between parents and schools.

Faced with the specter of criminal charges against their children if their behavior is deemed to constitute bullying, parents have shown a reluctance to cooperate fully with schools, in some instances choosing to “lawyer up’’ and stop all communication. Ideally, parents would work with schools to help educate students about why bullying is wrong and step in immediately to help stop any bullying activities involving their children Keating says.

None the less parents must remain active and diligent with the children and pre-teens when it comes to technology. Digital Citizenship is a growing concept regarding the proper use of technology, but as parents we have failed to provide our children with the right tools to properly on how to properly use them. How else are they to act, badly, why because their is no guidance. Here are some examples of things that as a parent you can look for and speak to your child about. But look for a future posting about Digital Citizenship and Digital Respect.

Instant Messaging/Text Messaging Harassment

  • Kids may send hateful or threatening messages to other kids, without realizing that although it is not said face to face, unkind or threatening messages are hurtful and very serious.
  • Warning wars - Many Internet Service Providers offer a way of "telling on" a user who is saying inappropriate things. Kids often engage in "warning wars" which can lead to kicking someone offline for a period of time. While this should be a security tool, kids sometimes use the Warn button as a game or prank.
  • "Posers" - A kid/teen may create a screen name that is very similar to another kid's name. The name may have an additional "i" or one less "e". They may use this name to say inappropriate things to other users while posing as the other person.
  • Text wars or text attacks are when kids gang up on the victim, sending thousands of text-messages to the victim's mobile phone or other mobile device. The victim is then faced with a huge cell phone bill and angry parents. This has changed dramatically with parents opting for text messaging plans.
  •  Kids send death threats using IM and text-messaging as well as photos/videos (see below).  Almost all are illegal in most states.

Stealing passwords

  • A kid may steal another child's password and begin to chat with other people, pretending to be the other kid. He/she may say mean things that offend and anger this person's friends or even strangers. Meanwhile, they won't know it is not really that person they are talking to.
  • A kid may also use another kid's password to change his/her profile to include sexual, racist, and inappropriate things that may attract unwanted attention or offend people.
  • A kid often steals the password and locks the victim out of their own account.
  • Once the password is stolen, hackers may use it to hack into the victim's computer.
  • Blogs are online journals. They are a fun way for kids and teens to post messages for all of their friends to see. However, kids sometimes use these blogs to damage other kids' reputations or invade their privacy. For example, in one case, a boy posted a bunch of blogs about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend, explaining how she destroyed his life, calling her degrading names. Their mutual friends read about this and criticized her. She was embarrassed and hurt all because another kid posted mean, private, and false information about her. Sometimes kids set up a blog or profile page pretending to be their victim and saying things designed to humiliate them.

Web sites

  •  Children used to tease each other in the playground; now they do it on Web sites. Kids sometimes create Web sites that may insult or endanger another child. They create pages specifically designed to insult another kid or group of people.
  • Kids also post other kids' personal information and pictures, which put those people at a greater risk of being contacted or found.

Sending Pictures through E-mail and Cell Phones(Sexting)

  • There have been cases of teens sending mass e-mails to other users, that include nude or degrading pictures of other teens. Once an e-mail like this is sent, it is passed around to hundreds of other people within hours; there is no way of controlling where it goes.
  • Many of the newer cell phones allow kids to send pictures to each other. The kids receive the pictures directly on their phones, and may send it to everyone in their address books. After viewing the picture at a Web site, some kids have actually posted these pictures on Facbook, social networking profiles and other programs for anyone to download or view.
  • Kids often take a picture of someone in a locker room, bathroom or dressing room and post it online or send it to others on cell phones.

 Internet Polling

  • Who's Hot? Who's Not? Who is the biggest slut in the eighth grade? These types of questions run rampant on the Internet polls, all created by yours truly - kids and teens. Such questions are often very offensive to others and are yet another way that kids can "bully" other kids online.

Interactive Gaming

  • Many kids today are playing interactive games on gaming devices such as X-Box Live and Sony Play Station 2 Network. These gaming devices allow a child to communicate by chat and live Internet phone with anyone they find themselves matched with in a game online. Sometimes the kids verbally abuse the other kids, using threats and lewd language. Sometimes they take it further, by locking them out of games, passing false rumors about them or hacking into their accounts.

Sending Malicious Code

  • Many kids will send viruses, spy ware and hacking programs to their victims. They do this to either destroy their computers or spy on their victim. Trojan Horse programs allow the cyberbully to control their victim's computer remote control, and can be used to erase the hard drive of the victim.

Sending Porn and Other Junk E-Mail and IMs

  • Often cyber bullies will sign their victims up for e-mailing and IM marketing lists, lots of them, especially to porn sites. When the victim receives thousands of e-mails from pornographers their parents usually get involved, either blaming them (assuming they have been visiting porn sites) or making them change their e-mail or IM address.


  • Posing as the victim, the cyberbully can do considerable damage. They may post a provocative message in a hate group's chat room posing as the victim, inviting an attack against the victim, often giving the name, address and telephone number of the victim to make the hate group's job easier. They often also send a message to someone posing as the victim, saying hateful or threatening things while masquerading as the victim. They may also alter a message really from the victim, making it appear that they have said nasty things or shared secrets with others.

Cyber bullying by Proxy:

  • Often people who misuse the Internet to target others do it using accomplices. These accomplices, unfortunately, are often unsuspecting. They know they are communicating irate or provocative messages, but don't realize that they are being manipulated by the real cyber-harasser or cyberbully. That's the beauty of this type of scheme. The attacker merely prods the issue by creating indignation or emotion on the part of others, can sit back and let others do their dirty work. Then, when legal action or other punitive actions are taken against the accomplice, the real attacker can claim that they never instigated anything and no one was acting on their behalf. They claim innocence and blame their accomplices, unwitting or not. And their accomplices have no legal leg to stand on.
  • It's brilliant and very powerful. It is also one of the most dangerous kinds of cyber harassment or cyberbullying. Children do this often using AOL, MSN or another ISP as their "proxy" or accomplice. When they engage in a "notify" or "warning" war, they are using this method to get the ISP to view the victim as the provocateur. A notify or warning war is when one child provokes another, until the victim lashes back. When they do, the real attacker clicks the warning or notify button on the text screen. This captures the communication and flags it for the ISP's review. If the ISP finds that the communication violated their terms of service agreement (which most do) they may take action. Some accounts allow several warnings before formal action is taken. But the end result is the same. The ISP does the attacker's dirty work when they close or suspend the real victim's account for a "terms of service" violation. Most knowledgeable ISPs know this and are careful to see if the person being warned is really being set-up.
  • Sometimes children use the victim's own parents as unwitting accomplices. They provoke the victim and when the victim lashes back, they save the communication and forward it to the parents of the victim. The parents often believe what they read, and without having evidence of the prior provocations, think that their own child "started it."
  • This works just as easily in a school disciplinary environment, where the cyberbully hopes to have the school blame the victim. That's why those in authority should never take any cyberbullying at face value before doing further investigation.