I was recently talking to a colleague (who is an economist at my University) and he told me of an experience that recently happened with his daughter. She was at a get-together at a hotel in our city where alcohol was being served. Somehow the police found out about the party and busted all of the under-aged drinkers. My friend’s 18-year-old daughter had very little to drink, so the cops just sent her home with a warning. Others in the group weren’t as lucky. The students who were busted later learned that the cops found out about the party because one particular person who was on her way to the party was pulled over by the police and she had told them that she was on her way to a party at that particular hotel. It goes without saying that those who got busted were not happy about this. In response, my friend’s daughter “anonymously” created a Facebook page making fun of this girl and calling her out for being a “rat,” among other disparaging remarks. This is an example of cyberbullying.
This anecdote is consistent with our research which demonstrates that many cyberbullies engage in online aggression because they feel they have been affronted (either online or off). They also don’t think they will get caught or fully think through the consequences of their actions. Well, the Facebook page was easily traced back to my friend’s daughter and, of course, he had a good talk with his daughter. My friend doesn’t consider his daughter to be a bully; nor does his daughter view herself as a bully. Nevertheless, even good kids make mistakes, and, unfortunately with the age of technology, small lapses in judgment can result in serious problems. Do yourself a favor if you have teen-aged kids who are online: talk to them about these issues NOW so you don’t have to do it after an incident occurs. Good luck.