The first thing to appreciate in trying to understand what is cyberbullying is that it is no less serious than physical bullying. This is an aggressive act by one or more persons directed at another and involves the use of force to hurt, terrorize, or dominate others.
Bullying is a form of unfriendly behavior in which a person intentionally and repeatedly causes another individual emotional or physical injury or discomfort. This is an aggressive act by one or more persons directed at another and involves the use of force to hurt, terrorize or dominate others. Bullying can, therefore, take the form of physical contact, words or other indirect actions.
The victim of bullying typically has little means of defending him or herself and in most cases, does nothing to initiate the bullying. The perpetrators of bullying often have more social or physical control and influence, with the victims having difficulty stopping the unwanted conduct. The victim is usually made to feel less about who they are as a human being.
Bullying may take many forms, including social exclusion; physical bullying; name-calling or teasing; peer sexual harassment; there are bullying about ones’ ethnicity, race, mode of worship, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
It is worthwhile to note that bullying can happen anywhere including at home, school, work, and even online.
The current generation of children has been able to utilize the prevailing technological know-how to expand their level and the magnitude of harm when it comes to bullying. This phenomenon has been christened cyberbullying and is understood to mean any willful and repeated harm exacted through the use of cellular phones, computers, and other electronic communication devices.
Cyberbullying by definition, is the use of technology, especially among young people to threaten, harass, humiliate or disconcert another young person. In some countries, when there is involvement of an adult, the offense is referred to as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences, and may lead to imprisonment.
Bullying that is carried out electronically has become a significant problem in the recent past. The increased availability of hand-held and other communication devices affords bullies constant access to their victims, and the vice can often be carried out under false identities.
For example, a young person can cyberbully another by sending spiteful texts, creating a fake web page to spread unfounded rumors using communication devices at their disposal.
Obtaining accurate cyberbullying statistics is tricky. Some research data on cyberbullying rates have reported that about 1 in 4 teens has been the targets of cyberbullying, and about 1 in 6 confess to having cyber-bullied someone.
In another study, more than 50 percent of the teens surveyed said that they had experienced this abuse through digital media. Yet another recent study of approximately 5,700 middle and high schoolers in the U.S., 33.8 percent said they had been cyberbullied during their lifetime, while 16.9 percent said they had been cyberbullied within the previous 1 month. With regard to offending, 11.5 percent conceded they had cyberbullied others during their lifetime, while 6.0 percent disclosed doing so in the last 1 month.
Facts about cyberbullying
The cyberbullying facts are shocking: nearly 42 percent of children have been bullied online and almost 25 percent have had it occur more than once.
Among this proportion, being disrespected or ignored were the most prevalent forms of cyberbullying. Ninety percent of middle schoolers have had their emotions hurt online. About 75 percent admitted they had visited a website to harass another student.
Additionally, 40 percent of middle school students have had their password stolen and changed by a bully who then sent online communication posing as them or locked them out of their own account. About 21 percent of the youth revealed they had received a demeaning email. The principal cyberbullying location, at 56 percent, is in chat rooms.
Harmful effects of cyberbullying
The psycho-social effects of cyberbullying resemble real-life bullying outcomes, save for the sad fact that with cyberbullying, there is often no easy escape.
Research has made clear a number of grave consequences of cyberbullying victimization. Those on the receiving end may have lower self-esteem, increased suicidal tendencies, and an assortment of emotional reactions, including being angry, fearful, frustrated, and depressed.
Cyberbullying is clearly more devastating than traditional bullying because there is nowhere to hide. The bullied young person begins to evade family, friends, and activities, which is often the very motive of the bully. Cyberbullying schemes have become so vicious to the extent that there have been at least 4 cases of documented suicide in the US.
Cyberbullying is a powerful form of psychological abuse, with the harmful effect on the victims yet to be fully comprehended. Research, development of laws and education in the field are ongoing to appreciate cyberbullying’s harmful effects. It has helped with the identification of primary definitions and guidelines to help recognize and cope with this abuse of online communication.
Examples of cyberbullying
Victims of cyberbullying agree that it can often hurt worse than physical bullying because the audience and shame are magnified by the capabilities of online connectivity.
This means that everyone within their online social network may be able to bear witness to the cyberbully attacks.
The following are examples of cyberbullying: pulling a prank on someone’s phone; Gaining unauthorized access into someone’s gaming or social networking profile; Spreading real or imagined secrets or rumors about people online; Being rude or mean to someone during an online game; impersonating someone else in order to spread unkind messages online; getting online and posting unwanted pictures to social media avenues; accessing private files or folders on another person’s personal computer or phone.
Cyberbullying is just as painful physical bullying and may have additional harmful mental effects on an individual.
Paradoxically, the ugly side of cyberbullying is often brought to the general public via the same social media platforms when instances of cyberbullying have had tragic consequences.
Examples of cyberbullying cases that led to legal action in the US include the Megan Meier case, the Jessica Logan case, and the Tyler Clementi case.
The key learning from those cases is that schools must be proactive and use their authority to address the problem when a student whose emotional well-being is under a cyberbullying attack.
Young people are online now more than ever, not only to do assignments but also to socialize with friends and family members. But just like any other social activity, the opportunity for bullying exists in the course of their interactions with each other.
We singled out 6 major types of cyberbullying online. This list includes impersonating someone, harassing an individual, using photographs to convey a negative view, creating fake websites, participating in video shaming and engaging in vague-booking or sub-tweeting. It is good to remember that cyberbullying involves using social media and online apps as weapons.
How to protect oneself against cyberbullying
The adage that knowledge and information is power, holds true when it comes to cyberbullying. Taking steps to prevent cyberbullying is an important part of keeping our young people safe and begins with preventing computer invasions.
Training children how to simply ignore the bully is an effective tool. Learning and informing the perpetrator that you are recording the evidence can be a great deterrent. Additional things which can be done to further protect the young include not opening emails from sources they do not know, and not downloading attachments unless they are expecting an attachment from someone.
Stop downloading free media from software that is not legally approved and therefore regulated. Purchase and install anti-virus software to prevent identity theft.
In the matter of cyberbullying, prevention is always better than cure. The best way to prevent cyberbullying is for every caregiver to prepare each child on how to interact in an online world.
Here are some things one can do: inform the child what cyberbullying is; discuss with the child how to respond if he/she experiences cyberbullying; inculcate real-world social skills in the child, which can help him/her while online; train and teach the child respect and empathy for others while online; keep lines of communication open with the child; develop keen interest on the devices, apps and technology the child is using; insist on keeping technology out of the child’s bedroom where it can be used without supervision.
Given that cyberbullying techniques and methods have become so advanced now that bullies can access communication devices remotely to spy and collect information about children, this monstrous threat seems to adopt new forms, and will only be mutating with time.
Since young people tend to carry their phones on them most of the time, its critical to let them know the risk this poses. Keeping an open dialogue with young people about cyberbullying is a sure way to deal with the issue of cyberbullying on an ongoing basis.
Educators and caregivers can also take appropriate action by contacting the web administrator(s) where the cyberbullying victimization is happening.
Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Cyberbullying, on the other hand, is a new concept since technology now gives bullies a whole new platform to carry out their wicked actions.
It is proven that online bullying can have serious emotional consequences upon young people. Creation of this awareness in addition to caregivers staying in touch with their kids’ cyber world, can help parents shield children from its hazards. The growth of this awareness and its harmful effects is a significant ingredient in the fight against cyberbullying.
It is equally important to inform the society that cyberbullying makes depression and anxiety more likely to escalate in children. This worsens the existing mental health issues among the young people that disrupt academic performance and impair the social development and well-being of a child.
Awareness creation must address cyberbullying victims and online threats, which students are at risk and types of mental health services are available to the victims. It is crucial to make mental health services easily accessible to young people exposed to cyberbullying and encourage them to seek help early.
In case one’s child is the bully, the caregiver must talk to him/her firmly about his/her actions and explain the negative impact it has on others.
Signs of cyberbullying
The reality is that many a young person who gets cyberbullied may not want to tell a parent or teacher, often as a result of perceived social stigma, shame or fear that their phone and computer privileges may be withdrawn.
The signs of cyberbullying vary from child to child, but may include the child being emotionally upset during or after using the phone or internet; the child exhibiting undue secrecy about their digital life; the child may suddenly withdraw from their friends, family members, and activities they previously enjoyed; the child may start avoiding school or their grades may slip; the child may also become abnormally nervous when receiving online communication and may also avoid discussions about their online activities.
Enacting suitable laws against cyberbullying is important for raising awareness and prosecuting the crime appropriately. Legislators across the globe have had their attention captured by the number of recent tragic cases involving young people who have been bullied online. Their tragic deaths could have been prevented had there been a legislative framework to provide intervention through detection, reporting, prosecution of the offenses.
Unfortunately, given the slow nature of the enactment of laws, there are currently no laws that prohibit cyberbullying. The truth is that cyberbullying laws still have a long way to go, but the foundation is being laid across the nations of the world to bring to light and deal with this grave and growing challenge.
The structure needed for building anti-cyberbullying laws vary greatly on the subject of its criminality and the appropriate punishment for the offense. Legislative bodies are grappling with the practicalities of addressing cyberbullying in a single law or addressing it in multiple laws.
Many governments still leave cyberbullying punishment up to the school disciplinary boards. However, schools possess limited power when it comes to effectively preventing and punishing cyberbullying menace.
It is clear that schools require government agency support in dealing with online harassment among its student population. It is necessary to empower school staff to work with law enforcement agencies in cyberbullying cases. Schools additionally require training on cyberbullying case investigation and provision of holistic support for the victims.
Cyberbullying prevention tips
A preventative strategy is seen as one of the best means to deal with cyberbullying. The preventive measures may not be 100 percent effective, but they definitely help the parents and educators to remain vigilant in helping keep young people from being abused by their peers online.
It begins with acknowledging that cyberbullying does exist and discussing this fact with the young people including what it is and its harmful effects. It helps to create clear expectations on conduct while children are online. For example, it can be a policy that children should not send or circulate harmful content including videos, messages, and photos even if it may be in response to a bullying attack.
It is critical to teach young people to safeguard their passwords and personal details while online. Teens must be educated on how to block cyberbullies if they are being repeatedly contacted by peers who are trying to demean them. Educators and parents must encourage teens to stand up for others who are being bullied online and to report cases they may witness.
It is also important to let the children know that being bullied online is not their fault and that bullying indicates there is a problem with the bully than with the victim. Positive reinforcement can be achieved by praising children for doing the right thing by talking openly about cyberbullying.
Final thoughts about cyberbullying
In conclusion, it is good to remember that cyberbullying often takes many forms across the online platforms (social media, texting, instant messaging) and can be either private or public.
Any form of online social exclusion, name-calling or teasing, peer sexual harassment, intimidation about ones’ ethnicity, race, mode of worship, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes cyberbullying and must be condemned.
Driving access to information and awareness is a significant tool in the prevention and legislative policy advocacy in light of the shocking facts about cyberbullying. Educators and caregivers must be vigilant in detecting the early signs in the victims of cyberbullying with the aim of nipping the vice in the bud before the ugly consequence emerge.