www.whyville.net Nov 28, 2007 Weekly Issue

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Cyber Bullying

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Every playground has one, that kid that, it''s not so much you don't like, but you just don't like how they act. They might be bigger and stronger and physically violent, or they might be emotionally harmful. It doesn't matter how old you are, where you are from, or even how much money you have . . . there is always one of these people around, these so often labelled "bullies". The sad thruth of it is, that Whyville is no different.

Typically you can expect boys to be rough and girls to be down right vicious. But bullying doesn't stop for some children and teens even when they are at home. Places like Myspace, MSN, online forums, and even Whyville are filled with these people who seem to have nothing better to do than pick on someone else.

This degrading abusive behavoir is not new, it's as old as the Internet itself. Some people are fine to sit and harass their peers, or even strangers, through online chat. Some take it to another level creating whole slanderous websites about individuals. It is honestly the most cowardly form of bullying there is, think about it. You're in your room or even a den or where it happens that your computer is; they could be three doors down or halfway across the world . . . they are hiding behind psuedonyms and their screen to personally attack you. What for? No reason . . . they were bored, or someone they know doesn't like you, or they don't like you. They could gang up on you with a group of friends or attack you single handedly, and what can you do? The obvious answer is block them, or get offline.

But it goes deeper than that. You can block a bully, but you can't always block out what they have said or done. It's even harder when that bully is part of your everyday life outside of your house. The funny thing is, most people have been bullied at one time or another. We all know how it feels, so why do we do it?

That's a hard question to answer. Who knows why kids do what they do, honestly. It could be said that the popular girls do it to remind people of their social power, other people do it to get back at someone, or they are just reminding and individual that they are better than them, or it could be someone thinking they are doing right by standing up for someone.

Sometimes, parents don't want to get involved. I personally believe that parents don't know how damaging it is to be hounded day and night by someone. Then there are the victims, who don't want to say anything for fears it will only get worse. Let me tell you some things.

1) In the United States of America, cyber bullying is a crime. It is punishable by fines and jail time. It is a it is a federal crime to anonymously "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person" on the web or other communication system such as mobile phones and landlines.
2) If you have a cyber bully who is persistant, there is such thing as Cyber Stalking. It is illegal, just as illegal as real life stalking and you can and should, go to the police about it.
3) Many Internet companies recognize cyber bullying as something that is not a joke and do not allow it to be done through their service. Your cyber bully could face having their Internet discontinued from that carrier.

There is actually a lot of information online that ou can find about cyber bullying because it is such a huge issue these days. Links can be found at the bottom of this article.

So what has this got to do with Whyville, you might ask? Of course our town is all smiles and we are all the best of friends here, surely we don't have to worry about bullies.

WRONG. We have all seen them, or even been them. People who call other users ugly, newbs, stupid, gay, retarded, or any other long list of hurtful insulting things, and do even worse actions against another user. Of course we get in disagreements and don't like each other, but when you start using lewd language and constantly harassing the same person; you are a cyber bully.

There are a few that I see everyday, saying the same mean things about the same people. Often, these people are in a group and the friends just go along with it. Its often the case of a circle of friends and someone had a disagreement with one and then all hell breaks loose. If you asked the other people, they would say things like "Oh I don't really have a problem with them, but they were being kinda a jerk you know." Sometimes, it's the people who say nothing at all either way that hurt you the most.

Some people have the comment to add, "Yeah but what can Whyville really do about it?" Actually a whole lot. We have a lot of tools in place for people to use, but if that isn't stoping them then I think the City Workers need to step in and really assess the situation. There is tape, there are clam fines, and there is banishment, three "major" punishments that have no real solution to any chat problem here. Many people have more than one account and don't use their "good" account when they are online misbehaving. That way they won't lose their clams or rares. I think, Whyville should institute account freezing to deal with these bullies. If they couldn't log on ANY of their accounts for say, three weeks . . . it might have an impact to get people to stop.

A lot of cyber bullying occurs elsewhere. And it is then your responsibility to know what you can and cannot do about it. First off, tell a parent or someone you trust. Make it clear that this has been going on for some time and will not stop. Second, when it happens, don't make the situation worse. Being just as mean and cruel back won't get you ahead. Don't be a hypocrit. If you are going to complain about someone bullying you, make sure you're not bullying other people. Thirdly, be aware and spread the awareness that this is a serious issue. Bullying of any medium, is an issue.

But most of all, remember you are NOT alone.

Here are some websites I used for information and I think you will find useful.

Kid helpines
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 (In Canada)
and online at http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/en/home.asp

Interesting movies on the subject of bullying;
Mean Girls
Odd Girl Out
Bullies, Loners, and Violence
Back to the Future
Walking on the Moon
Rats and Bullies
Note: Rats and Bullies deals with the suicide of a real Canadian girl from British Columbia in the year 2000; we used this in assembly at my high school, possibly not suitable for all people, its really, really sad and really powerful. here is the website if you want to learn more about the story and the film without watching it, remember to ask first if it is something your parents might question you looking at. http://www.ratsandbullies.com/

Interesting novels;
"Lord of the Flies" - William Golding
"The Chocolate War" - Robert Cormier (Classic)
"The Lottery" - Beth Goobie (Canadian Author)
"Being with Henry" - Martha Brooks (Canadian Author)
"Names will Never Hurt Me" - Jaimie Adoff
"Men of Stone" - Gayle Friesen (Canadian Author)
"Shooter" - Walter Dean Meyers



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