(you would need to be registered at NY Times.com to see this....if you ask, I just might copy it to here in an edit)
(edit okay I'll put it up lol)
Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound From Afar
By AMY HARMON
he fight started at school, when some eighth-grade girls stole a pencil case filled with makeup that belonged to a new classmate, Amanda Marcuson, and she reported them.
But it did not end there. As soon as Amanda got home, the instant messages started popping up on her computer screen. She was a tattletale and a liar, they said. Shaken, she typed back, "You stole my stuff!" She was a "stuck-up bitch," came the instant response in the box on the screen, followed by a series of increasingly ugly epithets.
That evening, Amanda's mother tore her away from the computer to go to a basketball game with her family. But the barrage of electronic insults did not stop. Like a lot of other teenagers, Amanda has her Internet messages automatically forwarded to her cellphone, and by the end of the game she had received 50 - the limit of its capacity.
"It seems like people can say a lot worse things to someone online than when they're actually talking to them," said Amanda, 14, of Birmingham, Mich., who transferred to the school last year. The girls never said another word to her in person, she said.
The episode reflects one of many ways that the technology lubricating the social lives of teenagers is amplifying standard adolescent cruelty. No longer confined to school grounds or daytime hours, "cyberbullies" are pursuing their quarries into their own bedrooms. Tools like e-mail messages and Web logs enable the harassment to be both less obvious to adults and more publicly humiliating, as gossip, put-downs and embarrassing pictures are circulated among a wide audience of peers with a few clicks.
The technology, which allows its users to inflict pain without being forced to see its effect, also seems to incite a deeper level of meanness. Psychologists say the distance between bully and victim on the Internet is leading to an unprecedented - and often unintentional - degree of brutality, especially when combined with a typical adolescent's lack of impulse control and underdeveloped empathy skills.
"We're always talking about protecting kids on the Internet from adults and bad people," said Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, a nonprofit group that has been fielding a growing number of calls from parents and school administrators worried about bullying. "We forget that we sometimes need to protect kids from kids."
For many teenagers, online harassment has become a part of everyday life. But schools, which tend to focus on problems that arise on their property, and parents, who tend to assume that their children know better than they do when it comes to computers, have long overlooked it. Only recently has it become pervasive enough that even the adults have started paying attention.
Like many other guidance counselors, Susan Yuratovac, a school psychologist at Hilltop Elementary School in Beachwood, Ohio, has for years worked with a wide spectrum of teenage aggression, including physical bullying and sexual harassment. This summer, Ms. Yuratovac said, she is devising a new curriculum to address the shift to electronic taunting.
"I have kids coming into school upset daily because of what happened on the Internet the night before," Ms. Yuratovac said. " 'We were online last night and somebody said I was fat,' or 'They asked me why I wear the same pair of jeans every day,' or 'They say I have Wal-Mart clothes.' "
Recently, Ms. Yuratovac intervened when a 12-year-old girl showed her an instant message exchange in which a boy in her class wrote, "My brother says you have really good boobs." Boys make many more explicit sexual comments online than off, counselors say.
"I don't think the girl is fearful the boy is going to accost her, but I do think she is embarrassed," Ms. Yuratovac said. "They know it's mean, it's risky, it's nasty. I worry what it does to them inside. It's the kind of thing you carry with you for a lot of years."
The new weapons in the teenage arsenal of social cruelty include stealing each others' screen names and sending inflammatory messages to friends or crush-objects, forwarding private material to people for whom it was never intended and anonymously posting derogatory comments about fellow students on Web journals called blogs.
"Everyone hates you," read an anonymous comment directed toward a girl who had signed her name to a post about exams on a blog run by middle-school students at the Maret School in Washington, D.C., last term.
"They would talk about one girl in particular who had an acne problem, calling her pimpleface and things like that which was really mean," one Maret student said. "That stuck with me because I've had acne, too."
One of the girls who started the blog said she and her friends had deleted all the posts because so many people - including some parents - began to complain.
"I didn't see why they cared so much," said the girl, who preferred not to be identified. "It's obviously not as serious as it seems if no one's coming up to you and saying it."
Rosalind Wiseman, whose book "Queen Bees and Wannabes," was the basis for the recent movie "Mean Girls," said that online bullying had a particular appeal for girls, who specialize in emotional rather than physical harassment and strive to avoid direct confrontation. But boys do their fair share as well, often using modern methods to betray the trust of adolescent girls.
For instance, last spring, when an eighth-grade girl at Horace Mann School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, sent a digital video of herself masturbating to a male classmate on whom she had a crush, it quickly appeared on a file-sharing network that teenagers use to trade music. Hundreds of New York private school students saw the video, in which the girl's face was clearly visible, and it was available to a worldwide audience of millions.
Students would go online at school while the girl was there and watch it, said one student from another school, who declined to be named. Horace Mann officials did not reply to requests for comment this week, but the student newspaper reported at the time that the school had set up out-of-school counseling for the students directly involved and held assemblies to discuss issues of sexuality and communication.
The incident is not an isolated one. In June, a video showing two Scarsdale High School freshman girls in a sexual encounter, apparently taking direction from boys in the background, prompted an investigation by the Westchester County district attorney's office when a parent reported that students were sending it to each other by e-mail. A nude picture of a 15-year-old in Wycoff, N.J., taken with a camera phone, is still circulating after she sent it by e-mail it to her boyfriend and he forwarded it to his friends, other students said.
Online lists rating a school's girls as "hottest" "ugliest" or "most boring" are common. One that surfaced at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, N.Y., a few years ago, listed names, phone numbers and what were said to be the sexual exploits of dozens of girls.
But girls are not the only victims of Internet-fueled gossip. A seventh grader at Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan said she had recently seen an online video a boy had made of himself singing a song to a girl he liked, who promptly posted it all over the Internet. "I feel really bad for the guy," she said.
To a large degree, psychologists say, teenagers are being tripped up by the same property of the Internet that has compelled many adults to fire off an e-mail message they later regret: the ability to press "send" and watch it disappear makes it seem less real.
"It isn't quite the same as taking a dirty picture of your girlfriend and showing it to everyone in the school when you're standing there holding the picture," said Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Life on the Screen." "There's something about the medium that has a coarsening effect."
But a growing number of teenagers are learning the hard way that words sent into cyberspace can have more severe consequences than a telephone conversation or a whispered confidence. As ephemeral as they seem, instant messages (better known as I.M.'s) form a written record often wielded as a potent weapon for adolescent betrayal and torment.
A sophomore girl at Fieldston High School in the Bronx, for instance, agreed not to return this fall after a racist comment she wrote in an instant message to a friend about a boy who had spurned her ignited controversy last spring. The friend forwarded the message to the boy, and copies were distributed around the school the next day, people familiar with the situation said.
Fieldston High officials declined to comment, as did the girl and her parents, who requested that her name be withheld to protect her at her new school. But several parents criticized the school administration for pressuring the girl to leave rather than using the incident as a means to teach a lesson about racist speech - and the pitfalls of instant messaging.
"When you say things over the Internet, it feels like you are spewing into your diary," said Sandra Pirie Carson, the parent of a Fieldston graduate and a lawyer who offered to mediate between the school and the girl's family. "If she had said those offensive things to her friend on the phone, I have a feeling the friend wouldn't have called him and repeated what she said, and even if she had, I doubt it would have had the same effect."
Many schools, ill-equipped to handle these new situations, are holding assemblies to talk about them and experts in traditional bullying are scrambling to develop strategies to prevent them.
"It's so nebulous; it's not happening in the lunchroom, it's not happening on the school bus, yet it can spread so quickly," said Mary Worthington, the elementary education coordinator for Network of Victim Assistance, a counseling organization in Bucks County, Pa. "Over the last year when I've been out in schools to do our regular bullying program the counselors will say, 'Can you talk about e-mails or I.M.'s?' "
For parents of several students at the Gillispie School in San Diego, such strategies were to be developed on the fly when online threats between their children and those at another school turned into a more classic form of bullying.
About 30 students from Muirlands School showed up at Gillispie one afternoon last spring, carrying skateboards over their heads and calling out the screen name of one of the boys with whom they had been chatting online. Kim Penney, the mother of one of the Gillispie boys, said she had since removed the Internet cable from the computer in her son's room and insisted that he hold online conversations only where she could see them.
"It was frightening to see the physical manifestation of this back and forth on I.M.," Ms. Penney said. "I just never thought of it as such a big deal."