Cyberbullying policies: Ready! Fire! Aim!

The Centers for Disease Control reported this week what many parents, and most school authorities figured out some time ago: bullying isn’t just for the schoolyard anymore. Much of it has moved to the Internet.

Youth can use electronic media to embarrass, harass or threaten their peers. Increasing numbers of adolescents are becoming victims of this new form of violence. Although many different terms-such as cyberbullying, Internet harassment, and Internet bullying-have been used to describe this type of violence, electronic aggression is the term that most accurately captures all types of violence that occur electronically. Like traditional forms of youth violence, electronic aggression is associated with emotional distress and conduct problems at school.

What to do about it? The report doesn’t really say. It is accompanied by a page of alleged resources, but other than the usual peer-group ideas that have often been debunked as feel-good-but-ineffective (DARE, SADD etc.) there are none offered. Officials haven’t even gotten bullying in school under control, and now they’re being asked to take care of the problem that usually occurs off school grounds and during non-school hours.

And therein lies the problem. No one has an idea what to do but lots of people are demanding schools do something, even as the justice system is trying to determine whether it’s even a crime.

At the behest of AG Lori Swanson, Minnesota lawmakers passed an anti-bullying bill this year that requires school boards to consider anti-bullying policies, including bullying on the Internet.

It provided not a shred of guidance as to how that should be accomplished.

Perhaps one first step is to identify those who are being bullied. Courtesy of, here’s what to look for:

*Long hours on the computer

*Closes windows on their computer when you enter room

*Is secretive about Internet activities

*Behavioral changes

*Is always doing homework on the Internet, but always in chat groups and getting behind with school work

*May find unexplained long distance telephone call charges

*Won’t say who they are talking to

*May find unexplained pictures on computer

*Trouble sleeping

*Stomach and headaches

*Lack of appetite, throwing up

*Fear of going to out of the house

*Crying for no apparent reason

*Lack of interest at social events that include other students

*Complains of illness before school or community events often

*Frequent visits to the school nurse or office complaining of feeling sick – wants to call Mom or Dad to come & get them

*Lowered self-esteem

*A marked change in attitude, dress or habits

*Unexplained broken personal possessions, loss of money, loss of personal items

*Stories that don’t seem to make sense

*Acting out aggression at home

*Missing or incomplete school work, decreased success in class

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