Are people meaner online?
Carrie Goldman, author of "BULLIED: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear," explains that there is a difference between "traditional" bullying and cyber-bullying. According to her, bullying is described as a "repetitive unwanted attack in the context of a power imbalance." If your child is pushed on the playground one day, they aren't being bullied. But if they're getting pushed around over and over again, then you're faced with a bullying situation.
Cyber-bullying is another story. "Even if each person only writes something mean about you one time, if you have a Facebook page and it's filled with hate in these individual events, when you aggregate them you are being cyber-bullied," Goldman explains. So what has changed? Why is cyber-bullying becoming such a concern?
According to Goldman, cyber-bullying is all the more harmful because people tend to be meaner online, where they can hind behind anonymity.
"People are bringing their agressive tendancies online and less and less of it is happening in an upfront way, and more of it is in this passive/aggressive, manipulative, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet way.
"They lose all their inhibitions," she adds.
The other thing that happens, Goldman points out, is that kids who would probably never have joined in on bullying in real life feel safe doing it online. "It's a different dynamic, it feels far more overwhelming online."
Because children don't have enough life experiences to put something like cyber-bullying in perspective, it can seem like the end of the world. Goldman explains that you have to help them see this from a historical context and reframe the issue.
"There's a lot of blaming of the victim that happens in our society, so it's not a surprise that kids feel it's their fault," she says. " Let them know that since the beginning of time, for thousands of years girls have flashed boys. It's just that a thousand years ago, the teenage girl who flashed a boy was only seen by the other kids down by the river."