Mariah was a 14 year old foster child who had been in foster care for roughly six months, when she was targeted by a cyberbully at her school. Mariah suffered from a speech problem, due to the fact that she had not only been abused by her birth family, but severely neglected, as well. Mariah’s self esteem was very fragile, and she had a difficult time making friends at her new school. More than anything, the young child in foster care wanted to be liked by her peers at school, and to be loved by her parents. Her foster parents spent hours after school, laboring in an effort at raising the child’s spirits and self esteem. They had made some progress until Mariah discovered the website created in her name.
ihatemariah.com was a website designed by a school mate to humiliate the foster teen. This cyberbully posted hateful messages about the child, spreading negative and hurtful rumors about her, as well. Even worse, the cyberbully posted some pictures of the troubled girl, and used computer technology to distort the pictures, creating ugly images of Mariah. What was even more damaging was the blog that the cyberbully wrote, detailing why others should hate the foster teen. When the cyberbully discovered that Mariah was living with foster parents and was a foster child, the technological bully posted online that Mariah would grow up to be just like her mother, a comment that deeply troubled the 14 year old, who had been abused by her own mother. It took considerable effort on the behalf of the foster parents to have the website taken down. Sadly, the damage had been done, and Mariah never completely recovered from the public humiliation. For this child, who only wanted to be liked and to have friends, a website devoted to picking on her, to ridiculing her, and to hating her was not only injurious, it was emotionally devastating to the child.
Cyberbullying is the platform in which the 21st century bully uses to inflict pain and humiliation upon another. Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, threaten, tease, harass, or even target another person. With the use of online technology and social networking sites, today’s bully can follow their targeted victim where ever the child may go. Whether the child is in school, at the park, at the movie theater, or at home, whenever that bullied child has a cell phone or access to online technology, he can be bullied. In essence, this form of bullying can be non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The number of children who have been exposed to some sort of cyberbullying is astounding. According to McAfee, which is part of Intel Security, 87 percent of today’s youth have witnessed cyberbullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center found that 33 percent of students have acknowledged that they have experienced cyberbullying themselves.
Cyberbullying takes many forms. Indeed, as today’s youth as so very technologically savvy, they can use this technology as a tool to bully others. This type of bullying can be done through emails, chat rooms, social network sites, text messages, cell phones, and even websites. There are countless ways a child can be bullied with this type of technology, and the number of ways is increasing, just as technology continues to advance.
Tragically, cyberbullying also leads to suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Shockingly, roughly 4,400 young people commit suicide in the United States each year. The CDC estimates that there are at least 100 suicide attempts for every suicide committed among young people. Children like 14 year old Ryan Halligan and 13 year old Megan Meier who both hung themselves in an attempt to escape from cyberbullying, 18 year old Jessica Logan and 13 Hope Sitwell who also hung themselves after enduring the horrors of sexting, and 15 year old Amanda Todd who hung herself after being both bullied and blackmailed online; these stories are sadly all too common.
Tragically, today’s children have no escape from bullying. Can they find help in you?
For much more, get a copy of Keeping Foster Children Safe Online: Positive Strategies to Prevent Cyberbullying, Inappropriate Content, and Other Digital Dangers, by Dr. John DeGarmo.