Teasing and bullying are nothing new to students of all ages. With the widespread use of the Internet and social networking websites such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, the internet can be a breeding ground for a new type of bullying: Cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying includes and is not limited to sending malicious, sometimes threatening, e-mails, instant messages and cell phone text messages; creating humiliating Web sites that include stories and pictures; posting malicious gossip and comments on Web logs (blogs); and breaking into e-mail accounts to send vicious material to others (Greenya).
In 2001, a Department of Justice study found that 14% of adolescents admitted to making rude or nasty comments to someone online during the past year (Finkelhor). In 2004, this number increased to 54% of adolescents (I-SAFE America). Research also tells us that certain populations of students are at a higher risk for being victims of cyberbullying. They include students who are overweight, small in size, learning disabled, and who are overly sensitive often targeted. (Williard).
The focus of this website is on students with cognitive disabilities. For this population of students, social mores on social networking sites may not be as easily understood as their regular education peers. Students with cognitive disabilities need more direct and explicit instruction on how to conduct themselves online as well as how to identify if they are a victim of cyber bullying or possibly even an offender. The purpose of this section is to inform educators and parents of the effects of cyber bullying, the current legislation on cyber bullying, preventative measures to take and how to teach students with cognitive disabilities about cyber bullying, and a few case studies to use in teacher education of cyber bullying.
With the number of social networking websites increasing as well as the number of students who claim to be victims of cyber bullying, education on these issues must be addressed in schools. For teachers, this shift in communication technology means that more training and professional development will be needed to learn how to identify victims and possible offenders of cyber bullying, increase awareness of cyber bullying in the classroom, create a safe internet learning environment for all students, what current legislation on cyber bullying dictates, and what steps to take to assist students who are being cyber bullied. Cyber bullying is a difficult challenge to face, but it should also be seen as a learning opportunity that can save the life of a child.
David Finkelhor, et al., “Highlights of Youth Internet Safety Survey,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 2001.
Greenya, J. (2005, February 4). Bullying. CQ Researcher, 15, 101-124. Retrieved July 28, 2010, from CQ Researcher Online, http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2005020400.
I-SAFE America.org; Willard 2005