LACK OF MATURITY, lack of supervision, and technology that can transmit messages instantly to millions of people: This is the volatile cocktail that lies at the root of cyberbullying. Today's high school and middle school students have been texting, e-mailing, instant messaging and posting on Facebook since they could reach a keyboard. But when this extensive technological knowledge combines with the raging hormones, limited impulse control and failure to understand consequences that mark the teenage years, the results can be devastating.
Cyberbullies can be popular "mean girls" or tech-savvy loners who use their skills to wreak havoc on a social hierarchy that excludes them. Bullying can be intentional or inadvertent — a message accidentally forwarded, a remark taken out of context. It can be a minor annoyance or, drawing in strangers through hate speech or provocative images, it can escalate far beyond the schoolyard.