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Child Victims in Social Media Warfare

There are many ways individuals or groups can become victims of social media warfare. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) example discussed in other chapters is certainly an extreme example of what can be done to people using social media warfare. Far removed from that conflict is an ongoing onslaught of attacks against children. These can take the form of cyberbullying, slander and exposure campaigns, revenge actions, sexual harassment, exploitation, sextortion, and child pornography. This chapter examines some of the ways children are harmed by other individuals who used these adverse social media warfare tactics against them.

Cyberbullying: The New Social Media Menace to Children

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior generally found among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. Approximately 20% of schoolchildren report they are bullied each year.

To be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power and repetition. Kids who bully use power such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people. Repetitive bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

There are several types of bullying. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things and includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, or threatening to cause harm. Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying can include leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarrassing someone in public. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions and can include hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, trip- ping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures [1].

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or e-mails, rumors sent by e-mail or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

The 2013—2014 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that 7% of students in Grades 6—12 experienced cyberbullying. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds that 15% of high school students (Grades 9—12) were electronically bullied in the past year.

Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior. Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a kid even when he or she is alone. It can happen anytime of the day or night. Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source. Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.

Sextortion is a type of online sexual exploitation in which individuals coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly or send the images to victims’ friends and family. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has seen a significant increase in sextortion activity against children who use the Internet, typically ages 10—17, but any age child can become a victim of sextortion.

Social media can be used for positive activities, like connecting kids with friends and family, helping students with school, and for entertainment. But these tools can also be used to hurt other people. Whether done in person or through technology, the effects of bullying are similar. Some of the effects of cyberbullying are shown in Table 11.1 [2].

Table 11.1 Effects of Cyberbullying

It has been observed that kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to

? Use alcohol and drugs

? Skip school

? Experience in-person bullying

? Be unwilling to attend school

? Receive poor grades

? Have lower self-esteem

? Have more health problems

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