As the uses of technology are rapidly rising, a new form of bullying has appeared. The newest form, known as cyberbullying, is, “the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate or threaten” (Holladay, 2012). In South Hadley, Massachusetts, a new term “bullicide” was developed when Phoebe Prince committed suicide as a result of being cyberbullied.
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Phoebe was an Irish immigrant who was always going against societal norms. She chose to date boys who were (said by her peers) “too good for her.” Harassing posts all over social media immediately affected Phoebe and unfortunately led to her decision to commit suicide by hanging herself. Her tormentors are now facing criminal charges. This goes to show that cyberbullying is harmful to adolescents in today’s society.
In general, society tends to agree that cyberbullying should not be tolerated for any reason. Although not always obvious, the bullies themselves also deal with similar personal difficulties. Although bullying and cyberbullying are similar, the act of cyberbullying is much more diverse. It can be committed almost anywhere due to the increase in technology. Students no longer need to confront their peer face to face. Instead, social media and other technology gives them the ability to harass or humiliate from behind a screen and sometimes remain anonymous. This eliminates the emotions that are usually brought up by traditional bullying. Cyberbullying plays a larger role than just hurting feelings. Ronald Alexander, a marriage and family therapist, explains that, “words can cause great psychological harm” (2012). Although cyberbullying is a universally known problem, the issues of student’s emotional stability, physical health, and self-worth need to be identified and a solution needs to be found.
Being cyberbullied negatively effects a child’s self-esteem; however, we often fail to understand the cause of bullying behavior. What underlying issue is he or she dealing with? The epidemic that is spreading across the United States is to sympathize with the victim and to punish the bully. While at first this may seem like the appropriate action, this may not stop the bully from repeating this aggressive act again on a different victim. Alexander proposes that adults are to blame for the children’s behaviors. He believes that children in society today lack two things: compassion and empathy. Alexander describes compassion as “a presence of being where one holds…respect for all beings” while empathy is “an attitude in keeping one’s mind… open to feelings… that may differ from what you yourself hold to be true” (2012). The lack of these two characteristics could be the reason why adolescents cyberbully. Since they were not raised by parents who displayed compassion and empathy, they do not show compassion and empathy toward others. Charisse Nixon studied a cyberbullied victim and found that, “there is a significant relationship between cybervictimization and depression among adolescents” (2014). Not only do they experience the immediate effects of being harassed, but these feelings can affect their emotions for days, weeks, years, or sometimes even a lifetime (Alexander, 2012). Dealing with the emotional aspect of cyberbullying has been ignored by society. There needs to be a solution in our culture that will eliminate these trends with this cyberbullying epidemic.
Not only does cyberbullying effect the emotions of the bully and victim, but it also has a negative effect on their physical health. Researchers have examined the relationship between cyberbullying and suicidal behavior among middle school to college age students and have found that, “both targets and perpetrators of cyberbullying were more likely to think about suicide, as well as attempt suicide, when compared to their peers who were not involved with cyberbullying” (Alexander, 2012). Being bullied shows to have harmful effects on the brain. Goldman even proves that it “can impact a child for life” (2012). Technology has become a necessity in today’s society which forces adolescents to have more access. But is it giving bullies the ability to continue their harsh treatment towards others? Studies show that students who have complete unrestricted internet access deal with more stress from cyberbullying because of the anonymous factor. Some victims even say that they fear everyday life because they may not know the main perpetrator. Although there are many known concerns that bullying causes such as anxiousness and worry, with cyberbullying, many go unnoticed. When Nixon studied a large group of high school students who have a past history with cyberbullying, he found a high rate of depression and even suicidal thoughts (2014). Since depression is often a silent factor caused by cyberbullying, it often goes untreated until symptoms become much worse. Victims deal with a vast amount of underlying issues which leads to low self-worth and confidence.
Many adolescents who deal with the effects of being bullied, usually go through a stage of low self-confidence. They may feel as though they are not worthy because they have received so many negative comments about themselves in the past. The victims start to believe the cyberbullies. There has become a “lack of compassion” that is shown to adolescents by adults and loved ones (Alexander, 2012). No longer are children being lifted up and encouraged. Instead, they are being told to conform to the world. If a child is constantly being told that he is not good enough to be alive, why wouldn’t he believe it? If the only world they know is the cyberbully world that entraps them, what else do they know to believe? According to Holladay, “one-third to one-half of youths have been targeted by cyberbullies”. She goes on to comment that these past experiences lead the students to “a decline in academic performance” as well as “thoughts of suicide” (Holladay, 2012). Being cyberbullied by peer gives adolescents a sort of hopelessness. They no longer see living as worth-while. Instead, they view life as a major struggle. In order for this point of view to be changed in today’s society, there needs to be a widely supported movement that will show the importance of stopping cyberbullying.
The United States has been faced with this major epidemic of cyberbullying. If it continues to be widely dismissed by parents and schools across the country, this social issue will never be properly put to an end. Although the victims of this social issue deal with the effects of being bullied, the bullies themselves usually deal with personal issues causing them to act irresponsibly by taking their pain out on others. If there was one thing that Barbara Coloroso wishes she could communicate to all bullies is that “destroying the life or safety of others… is as destructive to themselves as it is to their victims” (2008). Due to the increased use of technology, cyberbullying has become the easiest way to harass others. Adolescents no longer have to deal with face to face confrontation. Instead most cyberbullying happens behind closed doors in private and goes unseen by others. The story of Phoebe demonstrating the act of “bullicide” shows that cyberbullying does have devastating effects on today’s youth. If this epidemic is not addressed, the United States will see more cases like that of Phoebe Prince. Cyberbullying has become a destructive social issue for adolescents.
Since technology is constantly changing and allowing greater involvement, society needs to change with it. Technology and internet capability has had a rapid increase over the past several decades. Although younger generations have much knowledge on how to use this technology, their parents and grandparents generations do not. This creates a technological gap between adolescents and their parents. Students are now growing up learning all about the internet and social media capabilities. Since this was not possible for their parents’ generation, they are behind on knowing about all of the capabilities and dangers that the internet brings. Cyberbullying will be on its way to being eliminated if this gap between generations is bridged. Parents must first be willing to spend their time learning about how the internet can be used safely for adolescents. Once they understand this, they need to enforce safe rules for their children to follow. They should not allow their children to have social media until they believe their children can handle it responsibly. Parents need to teach internet safety beginning at an early age in order to develop lifelong guidelines their children will follow – and eventually pass on to their children. This solution will eliminate health concerns caused by cyberbullying.
Once the technological part of cyberbullying is addressed, parents can focus on instilling their family values into their children to boost self-esteem and self-worth. Children need to be dealt with in an uplifting way, this way they learn to positively build up others. If adolescents learn to handle conflict in a positive way from their parents, they will most likely respond to conflict online without hostility. Being proactive in imparting correct socially accepted behavior will lead to emotional stability and lessen the need for severe consequences. Parents will be comforted in knowing their students can handle negativity and conflict with their peers.
Cyberbullying is a major social problem that the nation currently faces. Although technology has its significant benefits, it has also caused adolescent suicide caused by peer to peer cyberbullying. A cyberbully can cause other students to lose control of their emotions which causes a chain reaction of negativity. Children’s images of themselves is consumed with the hurtful comments of their peers. Their sense of confidence is completely lost through the negative opinions of others. Internet safety is now a major concern among parents and educators. However, cyberbullying can be only be stopped if these parents and educators take immediate action. They must learn about the technology being used and create safe rules their children should follow. They must also set an example for their children by instilling their family values into internet use. Positivity will be key in the elimination of this social issue. Once this problem is resolved, there will be significant progress made toward the safety and self-confidence in adolescent internet use.
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