Monday, January 12, 2015

Early Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying is an awful thing. People, not just kids have been bullied in person for centuries. Now that we have the internet, most people are bullied online. Cyber bullying has only been made a big deal in the last ten years though. What people don’t know is cyberbullying has been going on a lot longer than that. Usually it wasn’t people you knew, it was people bullying others in chat rooms or via instant message. I have been online since I was in the fifth grade. I am now 33. That is a really long time considering the internet was not nearly as popular as it is now. I started on Prodigy when it was just message boards and you paid by the minute.  I didn’t know that, and got in trouble a few times for being on there a lot. I got AOL when I was in jr. high. They had chat rooms. Being a na├»ve girl who grew up in a really nice area, I was intrigued. I could talk instantly to strangers. I wasn’t stupid enough to give out my information or meet anyone but that’s when I started seeing cyber bullying.  People would talk about each other and say really hurtful things. 

When they introduced local chat rooms it just got worse. People would meet each other in the chat and become friends. They would gang up on others. Sometimes there were threats and people’s addresses and phone numbers were posted. AOL did nothing really. Unless someone was cussing they didn’t really do much. There was instances where people were scared to even leave their homes or didn’t feel safe at home. If AOL did something, they would just get a new screen name and come right back. They didn’t block IP addresses. If someone who knew you didn’t like you, they would go in to the chat and talk about you and then the whole chat room would be out to get you.

When I was in high school, the girl I thought was my best friend wrote me a very hateful email and sent it to me. To add assault to injury, she printed it off and had a bunch of kids write hateful things.  I was heartbroken because the email before that was us making plans to hang out. There was no such thing as “cyber bullying.” Looking back I should have turned everyone who wrote on that piece of paper to the school. She did get in trouble from her parents. I am not sure if it was more that her parents cared about the fact that their kid was a total jerk or because it was sent from her dad’s email address. Her mom has a daycare and has made fun of the kids by giving them mean nicknames like Alien. The boy was a toddler who happened to have a bigger head. He also had some developmental delays. If the child was different, the mom and her family would comment on it and assign a nickname. I felt so bad for the kids.  After my mom found out we went to her house to talk and I stupidly forgave her. That should have been the last straw, but I don’t talk to her anymore now.

Being online gives you a false sense of safety, you think that you can say whatever you want to whoever you want and nothing will happen. That’s not true anymore. Many states have cyber bullying laws that make people own up to their words.  It should have been around a long time ago though. I am sure there are people who could have benefited from cyber bullying laws. Sadly, I bet there are people who committed suicide because of early cyber bullying. People would impersonate people who their victim has a crush on and be extremely cruel. On AOL or Yahoo, it wasn’t like Facebook where you can tell if someone is fake. If someone IMed you and you said who is this? And they responded its George Glass, from Brooktown High, you would take their word for it back then. You would think that you were really talking to the object of your affection, when in reality you are talking to that mean girl who happened to know your screen name. You may share your deep dark secrets with this person thinking it was safe. It can be heartbreaking to find out you are being lied to and George Glass is none the wiser.  Thankfully now it is harder to pretend to be someone else, especially if you know that they have a Facebook account.  You can compare the accounts and the link.

Please don’t cyber bully anyone. If someone is cyber bullying you, tell someone. Don’t let them damage your self-esteem or your self-worth.  Don’t let anyone take your joy away.

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