Experts who understand schoolyard bullying often misunderstand cyberbullying, thinking it is just another method of bullying. However, the motives and the nature of cyber communications, as well as the demographic and profile of a cyberbully, differ from their offline counterparts about 50% of the time.
One of the biggest problems Parry encounters is with traditional bullying experts who don’t truly understand cyberbullying but provide advice anyway (which is often very wrong).
They tell victims and their parents to use printouts to help prove the cyberbullying (which is utterly worthless given the ease in which typed communications can be altered).
They often tell young victims to stand up for themselves when dealing with a cyberbully (which works offline, but only provokes more cyberbullying online).
While cyberbullying is a tactic used by some traditional bullies, most cyberbullying is very different. Only two of the types of cyberbullies have something in common with the traditional schoolyard bully and may slip from offline to online and vice versa. These are Mean Girls (always mean, but not always girls) and Power-Hungry (the ones who are the thugs of the schoolyard).
Cyberbullying is more about impulse control, technology tricks, and investigative forensics than about interpersonal behavior. It’s often less about conflict resolution than about getting their 15 megabytes of fame. Unless we recognize and accept this, we will not be able to effectively address the problem.
Parry Aftab and WiredSafety volunteers have been working on cyberbullying and cyberharassment cases since 1995. No one has done it longer or more than they have. We’re all unpaid volunteers. If you’re not sure whom to trust, ask us.