A new survey from the Pew Internet Project says that one third of US teenagers online have been "cyberbullied". The kids say they've experienced at least one of the following: "having a private e-mail, IM or text messaging forwarded or posted where others could see it, the victim of an aggressive email, IM or text message, having a rumour spread about them online or having an embarrassing photograph posted online without permission." Without wishing to downplay these incidents, which can certainly be very damaging, they don't seem particularly different than the sort of bullying kids are subject to in school or elsewhere in the physical world. While there seems to be this desire to look at cyberbullying differently than offline bullying, the implication seems to be that technology is to blame, rather than the bullies. When permanent markers became widely available, allowing bullies to scrawl insults on their victims' metal lockers with some permanence, where they singled out for scorn or special legislative treatment? Probably not. The point here is that bullying is a problem, no matter where it takes place, or what tools bullies use. Rather than focusing on cyberbullying, the focus should be on combating all forms of bullying, online or off.
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