Cyberbullying – The Darker Side of Social Networking
This is another view on cyberbulling by a guest blogger to get another set of eyes and views on this critical issue.
The internet, and particularly the rise of social networking, has helped people all over the globe connect. This increased ease of communication, however, has its dark side, demonstrated by the dramatic rise in instances of cyberbullying or cyber-bulling.
What is CyberBullying?
An unknown word until recently, cyberbullying describes harassment via a digital medium, such as a social network, email, chat board or even text message. Victims and perpetrators of cyberbulling are usually children or teenagers – once adults are involved, it becomes cyber-harassment.
Cyberbullying covers a huge spectrum of behavior, from ‘minor’ instances, that might involve a a few teasing text messages, to full-blown campaigns of humiliation and torment that have led teens to attempt or commit suicide. Cyberbullies might carry out all the bullying themselves, or they might enlist the help of others, who – knowingly or not – help them with their campaign.
How CyberBullying Affects Children
Cyberbullying has all the effects that in-person emotional bullying has on children. Arguably, these effects can be worse with cyber-bullying, as children often hide it from parents, teachers and friends through fear of humiliation, and because they’ve been threatened by the bullies. Cyberbullying is rarely just one message, email or text. Instead, bullying campaigns can go on for months, even years.
As the bullying is digital, it might also be anonymous, which can make it very difficult to find and stop the bully. Perpetrators have also been known to pose as other children, leaving them difficult to identify.
Several prominent cyber-bullying cases have made national headlines in recent years. In March 2012, a Maryland teenager left messages on social networking site Reddit, threatening to commit suicide if her school didn’t do something to stop her cyber-bully. In the same month, a student was convicted of a cyberbullying campaign that led to his roommate’s suicide in 2010.
How to Respond to Cyber-Bullies
Every cyberbullying case is different and will need to be treated differently. Cyberbullying victims should always keep a copy of messages they received, as this could be used as proof later. However, they shouldn’t respond to the bully, no matter what they say or do, and should try and block the bully from contacting them. Telling the victim’s school and potentially even taking legal action could cause the bully to stop. During and after bullying cases, it’s important that victims receive appropriate counseling to help them deal with the situation.
Where to Find Help
As agencies, communities and companies start to realize just how pervasive and damaging cyber-bullying is, more groups are coming together to raise awareness and encourage young people to take action to stop cyber-bullying. MTV recently teamed up with the phenomenally popular Angry Birds app, offering users the chance to unlock a hidden level in “Angry Birds in Space” if they spread the word about MTV’s anti-bullying campaign.
A cyberbully can have many different motivations for their behavior, and both victims and perpetrators of the bullying need help and support. If you or someone you know is affected by cyberbullying, or if you would like to learn more, the following resources offer support and advice:
– Stop Bullying is a national resource that provides advice and guidance to everyone who might be affected by cyberbullying, including schools and parents, and also run a 24-hour hot line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
– Stomp Out Bullying is a resource specifically for teenagers, raising awareness and running campaigns to try and stop bullying.
– For parents, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center gives advice and information on how to support bullied children.
“Bully” the movie tracks five students who faced daily bullying, and has sparked The Bully Project, which offers information to students, parents and teachers.
Be safe, get iPeersafe – free app.