Internet can prolong agony of bullying

Police used a cell-phone video of six Upper Darby students bullying 13-year-old Nadin Khouri to catch and arrest the teen’s tormentors this week. The video shows Nadin being dragged across a field, stuck upside-down in a tree and hung from a fence. Now that it has made its way to the Internet, experts say its impact will last far longer.

Upper Darby police superintendent Michael Chitwood said he showed the tape at a press conference Monday, after six of the seven suspects had been arrested, because he wanted to convey how severe the bullying incident was.

“The purpose was to show how serious bullying can be in our society, and we should not tolerate that activity,” Chitwood said. “Here’s a young man who could have died as a result of a bullying incident.”

Chitwood said his department didn’t discuss the impact the video going viral might have on the victim.

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Cyber bullying is a relatively new concept, so experts say adults often don’t think about how their actions might play online, even when they should. Justin Patchin, a criminal justice professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, called the impact of cyber bullying “over and above” that of traditional schoolyard taunting. Bullying online has been shown to co-occur with depression, increased suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem, in part because kids can’t escape something once it hits the Internet.

“It’s one thing when your bully calls you mean names or hurtful names or does something harassing,” Patchin said. “But when a video is taken of that, it’s basically like everyone is in on the joke, the victimization continues.  It really amplifies the effect that the bullying can have from the perspective of the victim.”

Jonathan Singer, a social work professor at Temple University, said videos can act as triggers that remind kids of their trauma and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Anytime you have a videotape of somebody being bullied and it goes viral then it’s re-traumatizing,” Singer said. “It can bring further shame and humiliation onto the family, onto the kid, and it lives on forever.”

Even if a video is not posted online, the idea that one is out there and could eventually be posted adds to the stress of being bullied.

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