Before the internet, bullying was a problem, a problem that occurred in school hallways and popular hangout spots. Face-to-face bullying could only reach so far, the victims could choose to walk away and find a safe place. Adolescents and teenagers were safe in the privacy of their own homes. Hateful words and physical harm could not enter the walls of their own bedrooms. Now with rapidly growing technology bullying knows no boundaries. Cyberbullying has become a world-wide problem that can be damaging to teens and can lead to suicide, depression, self-mutilation and low self-esteem.
Social media is a large part of everyone’s live especially teenagers. In today’s society cellphones and other electronic devices are the main form of communication. Teenagers depend upon their electronic device and it seems as if the media has taken over their lives.
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“It is estimated that 93% of adolescents, ages 12 to 17 years, use the internet and 75% of this population have their own cell phone. Twenty-five percent of those having a cell phone use it for social media.” “Adolescents spend an average of 10 hours a day using various forms of media.” (Burnett)
Did you know that middle schoolers use more media than any other age groups? The overuse of social media has been linked to lower academic achievement grades, lower attachment to school and shorter attention spans. Social media can also lead adolescents to becoming the target of cyberbullies. How common is cyberbullying, 15-22% of teenagers admit to cyberbullying others and about 1 in 3 youth report they have been a victim of bullying.
While social media and the internet has its drawbacks it also has positive aspects as well. Social media allows teenagers to engage with others from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds without the use of social media they might not have been given this opportunity. The internet as well as social media has great educational benefits when used correctly. Social media is also a way to spread social awareness about issues these teenagers believe need to be addressed.
Cyberbullying is a controversial matter that must be addressed. Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying cannot be avoided. When you are being bullied face-to-face you can choose to walk away or ignore the situation, but with cyberbullying no matter how long you turn off the internet or how long you chose to avoid the situation once you turn back on the cellphone or log back into social media the words and comments will be there waiting for you. The use of the internet allows a bully to send harassing messages through e-mail or instant messaging: post obscene, insulting, and slanderous messages in chat rooms.
An organization called stopcyberbullying.org describes cyberbullying as “when an adolescent or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another adolescent or teen using the internet, interactive and digital technologies.” (Wiredkids). Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that uses technology such as text messages, apps and social media to cause a person to feel embarrassment, shame and guilt. Cyberbullies can use social media 24 hours a day to harass their target no matter where they are. Cyberbullies use social media to intentionally inflict mental harm to any chosen victim for no other reason than their own personal gratification. Cyberbullying can take many forms publically or privately including social media, text messages and instant messages. Cyberbullying can not be blamed on social media sites. These networking sites do not create cyberbullies nor do they encourage the actions of a cyberbully.
I bet your wondering who a cyberbully is. How can you identify a cyberbully? Well the answer to that is that a cyberbully is a person who torments others using social media, the internet or any other digital technology. Cyberbullies are typical known to the victim. The interesting thing about cyberbullies is that in most cases they have been victims of bullying to.
Cyberbullying is not limited to the United States it has become a worldwide problem. It is fast growing and as of now no one seems to know how to stop it. The US government has already imposed several laws regarding cyberbullying. If you are caught cyberbullying depending upon which state you live in you could be punished by being expelled, fined and even receive jail time for a misdemeanor or a felony.
Cyberbullying is not just posting hateful and rude comments on someone’s social media page. Cyberbullying can be threatening to hurt or kill someone online, posting mean or hurtful pictures or videos on the internet. Pretending to be someone else online in order to obtain false or hurtful information about someone or even creating a webpage about someone where others can post mean or hurtful things about them. Despite the absence of physical harm cyberbullying can be more harmful than traditional bullying. Cyberbullying is limited, it can be viewed by anyone which can cause the victim unforeseen harm to not only the victim but to family and friends as well.
The harmful effects of cyberbullying are not just a cause for concern for parents but for educators as well. Victims of cyberbullies are unable to escape the bullying can lead to several psychosocial problems but psychological problems as well. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse and heightened anger disposition are only a few of the problems that victims of cyberbullying can experience.
What can we do when we notice the signs of cyberbullying? The first thing to do would be to talk to the victim. Ask questions and learn what is happening. Find out who is involved and how long the situation has been going on. The next step would be to report the bullying. Most schools have policies put into place for cyberbullies. The last step would be to offer support. Sometimes all a victim needs are to know that someone is there for them. Let them know that they are not alone and that you are there to help.
So how do we prevent cyberbullying? The first step is to learn the warning signs that someone you know, or love is a victim of cyberbullying. Many signs of cyberbullying are most often noticed when the victim is around an electronic device. The victim can start showing signs of avoidance when around social situations. They may delete their social media accounts and they can become withdrawn and depressed and lose interest in activities and people they once liked.
It is important to teach teenagers and adolescents what they can do with if they were to experience cyberbullying. It is important that they keep all the messages, pictures and videos and anything else the bully has sent or posted on websites. It is also important that they know that they can talk about what is happening. By talking about the issues at hand it makes it easier to handle the situation and the victim will not feel like they are all alone. Victims also need to learn that it is not ok to retaliate. It is tempting to return the bullying but by retaliating the victim might make the situation worse.
Cyberbullying has and is increasing as our technology increases. It is important that teachers and parents are aware of the situation and teach teenagers how to handle the situation if it should ever arise. We will never be able to completely stop cyberbullying but maybe by being more educated and better aware of the situation we can help those that are being victimized by cyberbullies.
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