One in Three Teachers Cyberbullied – 25% Comes From Parents

September 3, 2011

We hear a lot about kids bullying and cyberbullying kids, we hear plenty of stories about adults harassing and stalking others online, but what we hear less about is the cyberbullying teachers are subjected to at the hands of their students – and the student’s parents.

More than a third of teachers in the U.K. have been abused online. Most of the abuse (72%) came from students, but over a quarter (26%) came from parents according to a new study from Plymouth University in England conducted by professor Andy Pippen.

“Everyone acknowledges this is a problem and something needs to be done about it, but schools lack support. It is a sticky area as some of the things posted may not be considered illegal,” Pippen told the Huffington Post UK.

While teachers have always been targets of abuse – cars damaged, homes trashed, graffiti slurs, and threats – the internet’s anonymity appears to have given bullies – particularly parent bullies – the opportunity to scale to a new level of viciousness.

Showing typical gender role bias, 60% of the teachers who reported being bullied are women.  The abuse is manifest through several online mediums like chat and social networks, but cyberbullies are also creating Facebook groups specifically targeting certain teachers, posting videos on YouTube, and leveraging the ever nasty site.

“It seems to a subset of the [parent] population the teacher is no longer viewed as someone who should be supported in developing their child’s education, but a person whom it is acceptable to abuse if they dislike what is happening in the classroom,” said Phippen.

While this report is out of the U.K. and not the U.S., it would be naïve to assume that teachers here and around the world aren’t facing the same issues.

Perhaps as schools put together the final pieces of their back-to-school materials for this school year they should add a section to their student cyberbullying policy that specifically outlines expectations for parents.  If the parents are cyberbullies, it will be awfully hard to get their kids to behave better.



When Cyberbullying Becomes Cybercrime-and-Punishment

July 25, 2011

When two girls, age 11 and 12, decided to cyberbully a former friend, you can be sure they didn’t expect to be hauled up on criminal charges, but that’s exactly what their malicious behavior earned them.

Many tweens and teens are shocked to discover their cyberbullying actions constitute crimes and that they may face the full consequences of the legal system as well as any punishment meted out by schools or family.

It comes as an additional shock for tweens and teens to learn that though they are minors with sealed criminal records, the internet handily circumvents that nuance if so much as one person outs their name on a social site – a risk that has been heightened by the FTC’s approval of Facebook activity inclusion in background checks. Convictions do not enhance the bright future a cyberbully may hope to have; it’s not exactly something anyone wants to include when answering the ever present question on work, school, and loan applications of “have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

In the case mentioned, the Seattle times reports that:

“…the 12-year-old girl posted sexually explicit photos and messages on a 12-year-old classmate’s Facebook page was given a six-month suspended sentence for cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.

The case against the girl will be dismissed if she stays out of trouble for six months and follows other regulations, such as not contacting the victim and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Earlier, a co-defendant in the case, an11-year-old girl, was sent to the Juvenile Court Diversion Committee, which will order her to complete community service.

According to the charges, the two girls used the victim’s password information to post sexually explicit content on her Facebook page. They also instant-messaged “random individuals” under the alleged victim’s name to arrange sex acts, Issaquah police said.

Prosecutors said the victim had been at the home of one of the defendants in early March when she logged into Facebook. Leslie’s password information was somehow stored on the girl’s computer.

After the girls had a falling-out, the defendants used Leslie’s password to access her Facebook page “with the intent of embarrassing and tormenting the victim,” police said.”

For many kids and adults, the reality of criminal repercussions may be the best deterrent

I was asked to comment on that case, as was King County sheriff’s Capt. Michelle Bennett, a national expert on bullying and electronic harassment. Later, in a conversation between us, Bennett articulated a critical point in messaging and teaching about cyberbullying. While some youth will refrain from cyberbullying out of empathy and their own sense of decency, far more are likely to think twice when they realize the possibility of criminal prosecution accompanies their acts.

She suggested that the vast majority of youth (and adults) are not aware of how quickly their actions become criminal, and that effective cyberbullying messaging needs to include this component – particularly as more states are stepping up with stricter laws to protect victims of cyberbullying.

I think Bennett is spot on. While teaching empathy and understanding are key components of cyberbullying education, there is a percentage of youth for whom this simply won’t matter. They know damn well that their actions are mean – that was their whole intent. Of far more interest to these youth is self-preservation; they are far less likely to cyberbully when they understand the consequences they may face. We cannot overlook the teaching of this aspect when educating youth – or adults.

Yesterday I used this news story in a presentation with a hundred teen girls. To say they were shocked to discover it was criminal is an understatement.

Laws are catching up to cyberbullies

With the passing of electronic impersonation laws, cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing laws, misdeeds are catching up with cyberbullies. If you or your child has been the victim of cyberbullying, these laws may bring welcome relief – and justice. If you or your child is a cyberbully you/they may have already broken the law and may face misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony charges that will stick with you for the rest of your life, and are likely to stick with your child for the rest of their life as well.

Check the laws in your state to see exactly how much trouble cyberbullies may find themselves in, and expect that additional laws will be passed. Here is a sampling of laws today:

  1. A person is guilty of computer trespass if the person, without permission, deliberately gains access to another person’s computer system under without intending to commit additional crimes. (A gross misdemeanor)
  2. A person is guilty of computer trespass if the person, without permission, deliberately gains access to computer system with the intent to commit another crime (A class C felony)
  3. A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party:
    1. Using any sexual, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language, or suggesting the commission of any sexual act; (a gross misdemeanor)
    2. Anonymously or repeatedly makes contact whether or not conversation occurs; or (a gross misdemeanor)
    3. Threatens to injury on the person or property of the person called, or any member of his or her family or household. (a gross misdemeanor)
  4. A person is guilty of cyberstalking if he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party if:
    1. The perpetrator has previously been convicted of the crime of harassment with the same victim or a member of the victim’s family or household or any person specifically named in a no-contact order or no-harassment order (A class C felony)
    2. The perpetrator threatens to kill the person, or any other person. (A class C felony)
  5. A person is guilty of impersonation if they knowingly and without permission impersonate another actual person through or on an internet website or by other electronic means with the purpose of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person. This includes opening an account or profile under the actual person’s name. (A misdemeanor)

The days of malicious online actions without repercussions are ending, and the internet will be a better place for it.


More Men Charged with Attempting to Lure Underage Girls Online

November 3, 2010

While the media’s focus on internet safety has shifted almost exclusively to cyberbullying and sexting, other forms of predation continue to pose a threat. Once over-hyped as lurking behind every online contact, then dismissed as statistically insignificant, child sexual predators constitute a very real concern, and they are constantly trolling for new victims.

To thwart their exploitation of minors, Child Predator Units continue to pose as underage minors online, and undercover agents posing as young teen girls or boys continue to reel in these predators with virtually every fly they cast.

In a recent sting in Pennsylvania, two men have been charged with using the internet in an attempt to lure underage girls into sexual encounters.

According to Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office, Jacob Andrew Lucas, 25, and Richard Dean Carbo, 47, allegedly propositioned attorney general’s office agents who were pretending to be 13-year-old girls, through Internet chat rooms.

Charges were filed against Lucas after he sent a naked picture of himself during his first online chat with an agent pretending to be an underage teen girl and pressured the ‘girl’ to meet with him in person. Lucas then repeatedly engaged in online chats with the undercover agent, going into detail about the sexual acts he wished to perform with the ‘girl’, even going so far as to ask when her parents worked so he could arrange to meet with her at her house when no adults would be around.

Lucas was arrested by officers from the Child Predator Unit and police after he arrived at a predetermined location to meet up with the undercover agent posing as the teenager. He has been charged with one count of unlawful contact with a minor, one count of unlawful contact with a minor, two counts of unlawful contact with a minor and one count of criminal use of a computer.

The second arrestee, Richard Carbo, is also charged with attempting to engage in sexual activity with a minor after soliciting an undercover agent who posed as a teenage girl in an Internet chat room. He told the agent that he wanted to meet with her in order to “teach” her about sex, according to the attorney general’s office.

Carbo sent webcam videos to the undercover agent posing as a teen girl, in which he was naked and performing a sex act. He also sent pornographic images, and discussed bestiality with the ‘girl’. Carbo was arrested by police and agents from the Child Predator Unit and charged with 14 counts of unlawful contact with a minor; along with one count of criminal use of a computer.

Why this matters to you

More kids get harmed by schoolyard bullies than get hit by cars – but we still go to great lengths to teach youth how to look both ways and follow traffic safety rules. This same pragmatism must be applied to online safety issues as well, we cannot fail to address in a careful and thoughtful way the full scope of potential online issues youth may face.

Some internet safety “experts” have all but dismissed the threat of sexual predators online as a rarity that essentially only involves troubled youth, and have advised that efforts should instead focus on areas that impact a larger number of victims. This is shockingly poor guidance.  This is not an either/or scenario.

While successful sexual exploitation of a minor met through the internet is far less common than many other forms of abuse, it is not a rare outcome. The potentially horrific and life-long consequences of sexual exploitation demand that focus, education and prevention efforts remain a priority for families, schools, and others who teach youth about online safety.

Another common, though unfortunate, observation is that most of the youth who were solicited online were already experiencing trouble in other aspects of their lives. While this is true, it doesn’t present the larger more accurate picture.

Some youth who have fallen victim to online sexual predators were shockingly ‘normal’ with great grades, strong friendships, and popular. Others have been in trouble at home, at school or with the law multiple times. Some are lonely, vulnerable, questioning their own sexuality, unsupervised, or have already been victims of sexual exploitation.

All youth are more vulnerable at some points than they are at others, and predators, including child sexual predators, are constantly probing online and offline for youth who are in one of those vulnerable moments.

It is essential for parents, teachers and caregivers to candidly discuss with kids and teens how to appropriately engage with others, how to reject inappropriate contact, and how to seek help when needed whether the contact is online or offline.

As you discuss online safety with kids and teens, talk about the full breadth of potential threats, teach what youth can do to stay safer and avoid harm, and assure your children that you will give them your total support if problems arise.

This does not mean scaring children, nor does it mean banning youth from using the internet. In fact, banning youth from social networking or other online activities is likely to backfire and lead to deception. It also places youth at an extremely high level of vulnerability as youth who have been told they can’t use these online tools, can’t turn to you if things go wrong.

Actively engage with your child online, understand who they are interacting with, teach social responsibility, family safety and privacy, and be in tune to changes in their behavior that could indicated issues.

We need the ongoing discussions about cyberbullying and self-exploitation through sexting, but we cannot set aside teaching youth about online sexual exploitation, and other potential areas of risk.


Linda In the News – Your child and cyberbullies

October 2, 2010

Linda Criddle was interviewed for the article Your child and cyberbullies

published this week in Baltimore’s Child.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The schoolyard bully that kids once faced at recess for 20 minutes a day seems tame compared with the online bully who can harass a victim 24 hours a day,” notes Linda Criddle, a Seattle-area Internet safety expert and founder of the website, which provides information on Internet safety, security, privacy, and ethics.

Following are among the tips Criddle offers on her website to protect against cyberbullying.

  • Encourage your child not to share personal information (such as an address or phone number), feelings, or photos online.
  • Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is being bullied—and stress the importance of not bullying others. Also, keep in mind that a bullied student who thinks his or her parent will take away his or her cell phone or ban Internet use might avoid revealing a problem.
  • If your child is being bullied, address the situation immediately. Do not respond directly to the bully, but do save any applicable messages should you need to provide evidence to law enforcement.
  • Report bullying to the service whose tools were used to do the bullying—such as the Internet service provider, social networking site, chat room, and/or email platform—and block contact from that person (or people). Reputable web services have clear instructions for reporting abusive or inappropriate content.
  • If you feel your child is at risk physically, call local law enforcement immediately. If the bully is attending your child’s school, inform the school.
  • If you know who’s bullying your child, determine whether or not speaking to the parents would be a good idea. Be cautious and make your first contact in writing so as to document what you know.

Assess what help your child may need, including counseling services. Also, make clear to your child that it is the bully who is at fault—not your child.


The School Bully in Cyberspace

September 19, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:


From the Dept. of Education:

Teens live highly digital and media-rich lives with more communications choices than ever before. The media explosion is influencing our youths in ways never imagined. According to the 2007 Pew Internet & American Life Project report Teens and Social Media, by Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Alexandra Rankin Macgill and Aaron Smith, most teens spend time online, and about 50 percent of those who use the Internet have at least one profile on at least one social networking Web site.

Youths use such sites to stay in touch with friends and make new ones. The Pew findings note that 28 percent of teens using the Internet maintain a blog to write about their lives, ideas, goals and dreams; to post photos; and to create and share videos. In addition, the report states that 80 percent of teens own at least one form of what is defined as “new” media technology—a cell phone, personal data assistant, or computer with Internet access.

As noted in a 2007 special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health on electronic media, the explosion of technology and its use by adolescents has many potential benefits. Technology provides a way for young people to communicate regularly with family and friends and may result in teens feeling more connected to others. “The

Internet provides opportunities for adolescents who have difficulty making friends, e.g., home-schooled or socially anxious youth, to make rewarding social connections,” point  out Corinne David-Ferdon and Marci Feldman Hertz in the guest editors’ commentary “Electronic Media, Violence, and Adolescents: An Emerging Public Health Problem.”

Click here to learn more: The School Bully in Cyberspace


Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide

September 18, 2010

I am continuing my practice of sharing recent internet safety research pieces:


From the cyberbullying Research Center:

Youth suicide continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States. Even though suicide rates have decreased 28.5 percent among people in recent years, upward trends were identified in the 10‐ to 19‐year‐old age group.  In addition to those who successfully end their life, many other adolescents strongly think about and even attempt suicide.

One Factor that has been linked to suicidal ideation is experience with bullying. That is, youth who are bullied, o bully others, are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.  The reality of these links has been strengthened through research showing how experience with peer harassment (most often as a target but also as a perpetrator) contributes to depression, decreased self‐worth, hopelessness, and loneliness – all of which are precursors to suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Without question, the nature of adolescent peer aggression has evolved due to the proliferation of information and communications technology. There have been several high‐profile cases involving teenagers taking their own lives in part because of being harassed and mistreated over the Internet,7‐9 a phenomenon we have termed cyberbullicide – suicide indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression.10 While these incidents are isolated and do not represent the norm, their gravity demands deeper inquiry and understanding. Much research has been conducted to determine the relationship between traditional bullying and suicidal ideation, and it can be said with confidence that a strong relationship exists.11, 12 Based on what we found in the extant literature base, we sought to determine if suicidal ideation was also linked to experiences with cyberbullying among offenders and targets.

Highlights from the Research:

  • 20% of respondents reported seriously thinking about attempting suicide
  • All forms of bullying were significantly associated with increases in suicidal ideation
  • Cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying

Click here to learn more: Cyberbullying Research Summary: Cyberbullying and Suicide


New Resource for Bullying, Cyberbullying Issues

August 29, 2010

A new website with A Comprehensive Guide to Bullying has been brought to my attention. It has been created by a woman in the SR Education Group. The website content offers an in-depth assortment of resources on bullying statistics; child bullying; cyber bullying; workplace bullying; resources on the laws and rights of victims; and resources on prevention, counseling, and treatment.

I think it  provides some excellent materials for schools, families, and individuals. Check it out.