Police on the trail of cyberbullies

Officers of the police’s electronic crime squad said yesterday that they have received a slew of complaints from the parents of schoolchildren who claim to have fallen victim to so-called cyberbullying, or online intimidation. Speaking ahead of a seminar on the subject of cyberbullying due to take place in Athens on Saturday, a police spokesman told Kathimerini that the most popular platform for would-be cyberbullies is the social networking site Facebook. «The perpetrators, who are usually from the victim’s school, steal photographs from their fellow pupil’s online profile and then create montages that appear to show the victims participating in sex scenes or add the photos to advertisements where the victims appear to be seeking erotic partners,» the police officials said. In other cases, perpetrators make videos of their victims, sometimes during private moments, and upload them onto the Internet. The police spokesman told Kathimerini of one incident when a group of schoolchildren made a video of a fellow classmate with a speech impediment during a lesson and then put it on the Internet. «As a result, the child asked his parents to move him to another school,» the policeman said. Experts say that this type of online harassment is just as upsetting, if not more so, than traditional schoolyard bullying and can create long-term problems for children. «The phenomenon of bullying at school not only hampers the smooth development of a personality but also contributes to the cultivation of deviant personalities,» said Athanasios Gotovos, professor of pedagogics at Ioannina University. But tackling the problem is less than straightforward, police say. Although the parents of victims often lodge complaints, police investigations often stall due to problems in overcoming privacy regulations. In one instance, police said they managed to trace an offender’s online exchanges by invoking a law designed to crack down on the online trade in child pornography.