In The Know Zone


E-mail can be E-vil

Obviously, in order for this communication-based social dynamic to work, there must be a willing network of individual talebearers, or a universally available broadcast medium.  Relational aggression has both, and the latter has immeasurably compounded its reach and force.

An increasing percentage of teenage communication is carried over the Internet or via e-mail, blogging and instant messaging.  It is estimated that 45 million kids, age 10 to 17, are regularly on line in what one writer describes as “…a free-for-all where bullying and cruelty are rampant.” [10] Access to these media allows a girl to sit in her room at her computer and wreck another girl’s reputation with an entire school in a matter of minutes—a level of damage probably unattainable through hallway gossiping.

The perceived anonymity of electronic gossip has also led to severe escalations in the levels of slander and threats.  Authorities interviewed for this report [i] recounted numerous examples of extremely vicious attacks, including the dispatch of more than 50 e-mail death threats to one girl in a single afternoon and the posting of pornographic pictures on a Web site with the picture of another girl superimposed.

Another way in which e-bullying has raised the level of relational aggression is that it leaves the victim with no sanctuary.  In previous generations, a bullying victim was able to at least win a respite from the oppression in her own home.  Now the attacks cascade in through her computer and cell phone.  She can be bullied 24/7.

Typically, when confronted by their victims or authorities, the response of social aggressors is “It was just a joke.”  Such “jokes” can prove deadly.  A 14-year-old Canadian girl, Dawn-Marie Wesley, committed suicide after being terrorized by three classmates.  All three of the aggressors were tried in connection with her death and two were convicted. [11] An estimated 16 British school children commit suicide each year because of physical and social bullying. [12]

Despite the immense power wielded by social aggressors through these seemingly anonymous venues, they might ultimately prove to be a serious vulnerability.  They provide a potential paper trail, which could be used to trace rumors and slanders back to their source.  In the anonymous world of directly whispered gossip and lies, that was often impossible.

[10] Simmons, R., Cliques, Clicks, Bullies and Blogs, The Washington Post, 9/28/2003, p.B01., available at;  accessed 12/9/2004

[11] B.C. girl convicted in school bullying tragedy., CBC News, March 26, 2002, available at,  and Third Teen Guilty in Bullying Suicide: End of Chapter in High-Profile Case, Global, 9/18/2002, available at, accessed 10/31/2004

[12] Bullying and suicide: Suicide statistics, available at, accessed 11/19/2004

[i] Authorities interviewed in the preparation of this report included Persephanie Silverthorn, Ph.D., Sarah Goldstein, Ph.D and Paul Boxer, Ph.D., Applied Development Program, Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans; Philip Leaf, Ph.D., Director, Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence; Rosalind Wiseman, co-founder, The Empower Program; Shanterra McBride, Deputy Executive Director, The Empower Program;  Marlon Cummings, Director of Programs; The Empower Program; Kristen Frank, Program Trainer and Hallie Fox, Ashley Young and Zeina Kinkel  Empower Program Girl’s Advisory Board


In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package