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Comparison to traditional bullying

Certain characteristics inherent in online technologies increase the likelihood that they will be exploited for deviant purposes.[3] Personal computers offer several advantages to individuals inclined to harass others. First, electronic bullies can remain “virtually” anonymous. Temporary email accounts and pseudonyms in chat rooms, instant messaging programs, and other Internet venues can make it very difficult for individuals to determine the identity of aggressors. Cyber-bullies can hide behind some measure of anonymity when using the text-message capabilities of a cellular phone or their personal computer to bully another individual, which perhaps frees them from normative and social constraints on their behavior. Further, it seems that cyber-bullies might be emboldened when using electronic means to carry out their antagonistic agenda because it takes less energy and courage to express hurtful comments using a keypad or a keyboard than with one’s voice. Additionally, cyber-bullies do not have to be larger and stronger than their victims, as had been the case in traditional bullying. Instead of a victim being several years younger and/or drastically weaker than his bully, victim and cyber-bully alike can be just about anyone imaginable.

Second, electronic forums lack supervision. While chat hosts regularly observe the dialog in some chat rooms in an effort to police conversations and evict offensive individuals, personal messages sent between users are viewable only by the sender and the recipient, and therefore outside the regulatory reach of the proper authorities. Furthermore, there are no individuals to monitor or censor offensive content in electronic mail or text messages sent via computer or cellular phone. Teenagers often know more about computers and cellular phones than their parents and are therefore able to operate the technologies without worry or concern that a probing parent will discover their experience with bullying (whether as a victim or offender).

In a similar vein, the inseparability of a cellular phone from its owner makes that person a perpetual target for victimization. Users often need to keep it turned on for legitimate uses, which provides the opportunity for those with malicious intentions to engage in persistent unwelcome behavior such as harassing telephone calls or threatening and insulting statements via the cellular phone’s text messaging capabilities. There may truly be “no rest for the weary” as cyber-bullying penetrates the walls of a home, traditionally a place where victims could seek refuge.

One possible advantage of cyber-bullying for victims is that they may be able to avoid it in some circumstances simply by avoiding the site/chat room in question. Email addresses can be changed and emails can be identified before they are read (most e-mail accounts now offer services that will automatically filter out messages from certain senders before they even reach the inbox). Phones also include caller ID systems which may be able to stop harassing calls or messages. In the event that this fails, it is possible to change email addresses and phone numbers, as can identities in chat rooms etc. Unfortunately, this obviously does not protect against all forms of cyber bullying; publishing of defamatory material about a person on the internet is extremely difficult to prevent and once it is posted, millions of people can potentially download it before it is removed.

Source : wikipedia