Cyberbullying- why do kids just not read the messages?

I admit to being completely naive and uninformed on this subject. I’m 67, and I don’t have children (or grandchildren, obviously), nieces/nephews, or know any kids. Personally I’m not on Facebook and don’t partake in social media. I’m not without compassion and mean no disrespect to families who have been hurt by this terrible phenomenon. But this Enquiring Mind wants to know.

When kids get nasty, threatening messages on their phones or on Facebook, why do they not block the senders/posters or at least NOT read the messages? Barring that, why not change the phone number and give it out only to friends?

Do kids these days see their phone as so much an extension of their own bodies such that turning it off or NOT looking at a text/email would be as unthinkable as walking around blindfolded or with earplugs? When a kid is being hounded almost to death (and actually to death) why didn’t the parents take the phone away or change the number?

These questions are not challenges or an sneaky way of blaming the victim. I truly want to understand. I often don’t answer my phone and I’ve blocked many many emailers at the webmail level so I never see emails from people with whom I don’t want to be in communication. I’m a great believer in my right to admit or exclude anyone I chose WRT my private mental/emotional space.

Maybe I don’t know how cyberbullying works and maybe someone can explain it to me.

ETA: There was another thread recently that addressed people getting messages on dating sites-- messages that were challenging and unpleasant, and when I suggested simply ignoring or not opening the messages, it’s like the complainant did not consider that an option. Is this a similar thing?

I don’t think most cyber bullying is limited to texting or direct messaging. The bullies are posting on social media where other people can see the post. So even if the target doesn’t read it, their friends and classmates will.

Also, it takes a lot of restraint to not read what someone wrote about you. Most adults don’t have that kind of discipline. Kids definitely don’t.

I doubt I could resist reading message about me NOW, I sure as hell couldn’t when I was a kid!

I think this is a very big part of it. Even if the target stay off social media, as soon as they get to school the next day, other kids will come up to them with, “OMG! did you see what so-and-so wrote about you? What are you going to do about it? Is it true?” etc. I think they feel if they read the messages, at least they won’t be blindsided at school by the rest of their classmates.

While there is an option to send email-like private messages through Facebook, most Facebook messages are posted on someone’s “wall” and can be viewed by other people. You can delete things others post on your wall and even block them from communicating with you via Facebook, but by the time you do this all your friends may have seen the nasty message. The bully can also post nasty things about you on their own walls, and their friends’ walls.

Well, first of all I suspect a fair amount of cyberbullying is committed by people who were at some point considered friends of the victim. Even when this isn’t the case, if a kid’s friends know their number then a determined bully can probably find out what it is through sweet talk, lies, threats, or just sneaking a look at someone else’s phone.

Once this happens, it’s not like a kid can easily change their number. They’d have to get help from their parents, but for various reasons that’s not always something the kid is eager to do and the parents aren’t necessarily going to be willing to get the kid a new number.

To a certain degree, not participating in social media is social suicide in today’s world. This is how kids establish the pecking order nowadays and someone who doesn’t participate is automatically pushed to the bottom.

The OP should be able to remember how this pecking order was established among her peers. Back in my day (say 4th grade), I was teased mercilessly for being lousy at playing foursquare. I played and played and played I kept sucking and they kept teasing me. Not playing really wasn’t much of an option because not playing was even worse than playing badly. By 5th grade, foursquare was so childish, but it had all been very real and very important to us in that moment.

If we play ad-lib with the word “foursquare” in the above paragraph, I’m fairly certain every one of us knows exactly which word belonged there for ever year of their school-age existence. The word changes, but kids have been going through the same social dynamics since Og Jr. got his new stone axe.

The trouble is, participating in it sometimes leads to actual suicide. :frowning:

I was in the 4th grade in 1958. I never witnessed or experienced bullying at this vicious, widespread level. They were simpler times. And I was the quintessential dork-nerd, on the outside looking in. Not one of the Favored Ones.

Because others will see the messages, and they may jump on the bullying bandwagon too. This happens all the time.

Suicide rates (deaths) from 1950 to 2010: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0779940.html

Among teens, suicide rates were highest during 1980-2000. I see no reason to think that cyberbullying and social media are more than just the modern manifestation of instinctual childhood behavior. It’s as important as ever to be good stewards of our children, but the real nature of the threat is child psychology itself, not the childhood fad of the day.

Bullying among children is certainly nothing new. The difference with cyberbullying is that it can reach hundreds of people (maybe thousands) and keep on spreading. And once it’s on the internet, it’s there to stay. In the old days, a paper note could be destroyed or something written on the bathroom wall could be painted over.

Because people naturally care about, or are curious, about what people are saying about them.

It’s easy to criticize bullying victims if you’re not in their shoes.

This isn’t just kids either. Imagine that you know that someone is spreading false but very believable false accusations about you behind your back that are influencing the way people think of you. People are staring at you, whispering when they see you, avoiding you. Wouldn’t you be curious what those false accusations or rumors are?

I made a point of saying I was not being critical. That I was not blaming the victims. That I was being curious, as I don’t have kids and I’m not on Facebook. What about that did you not comprehend?

I have been trashed online; I’ve even been banned from two message boards. And to answer your other question, yeah, I was curious what people were saying about me, but not curious enough to read the stuff.

No , you haven’t been trashed. And no, you haven’t been banned from anything.
An anonymous poster with the fake name ThelmaLou was trashed and banned.

Imagine how you’d feel if you were posting here (and at those other boards you mention) using your real name, with your face clearly visible—and everyone you know was reading about how you are such trash.

Point taken.

However, the question was, would my curiosity drive me to read the awful things people were saying about me. The answer is no-- once I figured out they were awful things, I would desperately avoid the pain of reading them. But then, I’m an adult with many miles on me, and plenty of scars. A teenager would likely read such things, partly out of curiosity, and partly to see if anyone is sticking up for him/her.

How is a parent supposed to handle this? There will always be bullies. What advice do the police, schools, shrinks, etc. give to parents?

Think about the things you did as a kid with your friends – hung out on the playground, went to the burger joint after school, read comic books at the drugstore, etc. Now imagine that every time you went to do one of those activities, someone showed up and started harassing you. You’re at the playground with your friends, and some mean girls come by and start making fun of your hair. You’re drinking a milkshake with your friends and those same girls come in and stand at the end of your table calling you a slut whore. You’re in the aisle at the comic book store with your friends and the same girls walk in with a photo book they’ve printed up full of embarrassing pictures they’ve taken of you.

Something like that may have happened in your childhood once or twice, but the limiting factor is that those mean girls physically couldn’t be everywhere all the time. If they had, your only recourse would have been to stop hanging out with your friends. Stop going to the playground, stop getting milkshakes, stop reading comic books. Those are important things because that’s how you maintain your friendships.

The internet has made it so that it’s trivial to be everywhere, all the time. Two or three determined bullies can completely overwhelm your efforts to block numbers and accounts, to the point where the only solution is to lock down your online presence so much that you stop interacting with your friends.

The dynamic of cyberbullying usually involves a subject with which there can be coercion and blackmail, such as possessing nude photos of the person you’re bullying or things like that. The person being bullied are often afraid of being ‘doxxed’, that is, having their details (real name, address and contact details) shared among a large pool of online bullies who could then share your compromising photos with your family or boss, unless you comply with their demands, which are usually more compromising photos.

Besides compromising photos, though, there are many ways in which cyberbullying takes place that can turn people’s lives into hell. I must mention here what you already know, and that is, to younger generations, the Internet isn’t a luxury or a source of information. It’s an integral part of their lives and how they network and communicate with their environment and peers, through school, college and employment. You and I could easily delete our social media profiles and ignore whatever messages we receive, and we may go to the police, but the younger ones can’t do that because they have more things to consider; because the bullying takes place in a medium that they consider to be an aspect of life, not to mention how such atrocities are facilitated through the advanced search engine mechanisms currently available and the increasingly dominant trend of integration between different social media platforms, the result of which is that you can type a person’s first and last name on Google and find out everything you need to know about them through a variety of websites.
You go to their Facebook and see their friends; you go to their Youtube and see the music they like; you go to Twitter and see their opinions; you go to LinkedIn and know who they’re working for, and so it goes. The older you were when you got online, the lesser you’d be affected by whatever takes place online, IMHO.

Steronz & Blackstock, I acknowledged the noxious ubiquity of cyberbullying:

Blackstock said it well:

Can a parent do anything to protect their child from this or rescue their child once it starts?

I was bullied back in the day (early 90’s, pre-internet), and I agree with the responses about simple curiosity and lack of impulse control. I mean, if you found out someone had scrawled something nasty about you on the bathroom wall, even as an adult, would you not want to go see it?

Also, as Lamia said, bullying isn’t necessarily done by enemies. For example, I didn’t hit my growth spurt until age 15, which meant that I looked like a 5th grader when I was in 10th grade. This made me a serious target for bullies, and my other friends began avoiding me so they wouldn’t be targeted by proxy. Therefore, the people I befriended at first were the less brutal bullies who were “just messing with me.” I was able to convince myself that they weren’t bullying, we were just horsing around (even though I didn’t reciprocate, because I’d be beaten senseless, haha). Alas, kids like to test limits, so the more I was willing to tolerate, the more painful and creative punishment they heaped upon me. It’s sad to think about now, but there were a couple of days that I worried they might actually kill me while trying out some new sadistic thing, like holding me down and making me inhale toxic fumes or just taking me somewhere out of the way and beating me to death with some heavy object they found. I vividly remember walking with them around the campus and trying to identify objects in the vicinity which could be used to inflict pain and whether I needed to stick close to the perimeter or a teacher due to risk of serious injury.

So, it’s complicated. I didn’t want to hang out with those guys, but they were the only people who seemed to care about me one way or the other. It’s easy now to look back and see how stupid that was; when you’re a teenager without a fully formed prefrontal cortex and adults don’t seem to notice or care, well, it’s easy to think that is normal or acceptable. It is much the same with social media, I imagine. These kids think this is just how life is, and unfortunately sometimes they decide that they don’t want to live a life like that.

I’m not sure that either law enforcement, parents or Internet service providers can do anything about it. Whatever limitations you impose on Internet use by teens and children to protect them will be circumvented by those same teens and children. South Korea had a recent experience with this.

I didn’t mean to stop the bullies or even to remove the media. I’m not talking about SHIELDING the child.

How can a parent protect a child from the DAMAGE? When a child commits suicide over this… what might the parent have done just between the parent and child, i.e., inside the child? You can’t shield your child from all the dangers out there in the world (unless you do what I would do if I were a parent, namely, lock them in the attic until they’re 40). :dubious:

What is the current thinking from the Wise People of Society re how parents can instill within the child internal guards, shields, and protection?