Grown up cyber-bullies

Grown up cyber-bullies

From Facebook to Twitter, forums to e-mail, we often hear stories of children and teens being picked on by cyber-bullies. If you think adults are immune to the drama, think again!
From Facebook to Twitter, forums to e-mail, we often hear stories of children and teens being picked on by cyber-bullies. If you think adults are immune to the drama, think again!

Cases of cyber-bullying may make the news, but this war of words isn't limited to teenagers. From bulletin boards and chat rooms, to sites like Facebook and Twitter, adult women are also engaging in cyber wars. And experts say it can turn vicious! What causes grown-ups to lash out on the web? How can you protect yourself?

Whether it's a chat room or social network, Gina Moore-Sanders loves to type away.

"I get to meet a lot of different people with diverse opinions and I like to have conversations with them," says Gina.

Recently, Gina posted a creative story on an internet bulletin board. Soon, cyber-bullies began taking swings.

"They said expletives, profanity that I was stupid and I was crazy." says Gina.

From snide comments to personal attacks to just plain mean words, experts say anytime you are harassed, humiliated or threatened online it's cyber-bullying. And these days, teens aren't the only victims of internet finger-pointing. Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, author of 'Mean Girls Grown Up,' says it may be even more common among adult women.

"I hear about adult women retaliating a lot more and retaliating in really vicious ways, to the point where sites get shut down, people drop off of sites," says Dr. Dellasega.

This bullying can be one rude comment, or a string of them. It can take place through e-mail, social networking sites, even instant messeges.

"The topics that women are cyber-bullied about are really endless. It could be a romance. It could be your parenting practices," says Dr. Dellasega.

It can even be about physical appearance or family. Romi Lassally started truuconfessions.com, an anonymous online confession booth for women. While she sees plenty of positive chit-chat, "We probably see cyberbullying maybe 1 in 10 confessions, maybe 2 in 10 comments. We don't want to post it. We want to offer a judgment free, safe place for women," says Lassally.

So Lasally has the site moderated. She believes part of the reason women bear their claws is insecurity.

"I think the platform invites conversation, but it also invites different opinions. And if one woman's doing it one way, that just might seem wrong to someone else," says Lassally.

Dr. Dellasega says it could even be a simple case of mean girls growing into mean women. Anonymity also comes into play.

"It's like being behind a mask. It offers that sort of anonymous screen for a woman to say some things that she wouldn't normally say," says Dr. Dellasega.

So, what can you do if someone is being downright dirty online?

"They want you to fire back. The best thing to do is to turn off the computer and walk away," says Dr. Dellasega.

And if you want to respond, stop and think before you hit send.

If you know who is bullying you, Dr. Dellasega suggests meeting them in person to work things out. That way, you can clarify what was said online and there are no misunderstandings.
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