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Bullying of Gay/Lesbian Teens: Expert Q&A

Questions Raised by Cyberbullying That May Have Led to Suicide of Rutgers Student

What is cyberbullying?

Michell:

Cyberbullying is making derogatory and humiliating statements about another individual online with an expectation of a wide audience. If you post something on your wall in Facebook and you are friends with 300 people and say so-and-so is a stupid jerk, that could constitute cyberbullying. But that is a fine line.

Is cyberbullying different from the type of harassment young people have always done to one another?

Michell:

It is obviously new. What is online can be spread to the entire world. It bears repeating a million times that anything kids put online, whether an email or a picture, can be forwarded to the entire world. It has a different order of magnitude, and it lives on forever.

 

Why do teens bully other teens?

Michell:

The most important thing to bear in mind -- and this is what I talk with kids about -- is 99.9% of the time the people who engage in bullying are somewhat insecure themselves. You see this with the middle-school girls. One girl gets bullied and six months later she is tormenting another kid.

And when the victim is gay or lesbian, it is still being done from insecurity, because these bullies are afraid of their own sexual impulses. Bullying represents a maladaptive behavior on the part of the bully. The bully is not the epitome of mental health or happiness.

Fassler:

If you believe your child is bullying others, try and talk to them about what’s going on. Are they angry or upset? Is there a problem at school or with friends? Rather than punishing them, let them know that you’re concerned and that you want to help. Consider talking to the child’s teacher, guidance counselor, or family physician. If the behavior persists, ask for a referral to an appropriate mental health professional.

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