What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Cyberbullying is similar to traditional bullying in many ways; however, the main difference from traditional bullying, is that it doesn’t stop when the child is in the safety of his/her own home. A child who is cyberbullied is likely to be bullied at school as well. Cyberbullying can be relentless, prohibiting an escape for the victim, which can severely damage a child’s mental health and negatively affect self-esteem.
When a child is bullied at school or on the playground, he knows who his bully is. The “anonymity” associated with cyberbullying often leaves the victim feeling like he/she has no recourse. When explicit photographs or videos are uploaded to social media websites as a form of bullying, it is extremely difficult to delete or make this type of material disappear from the Internet. When combined with traditional bullying, cyberbullying can be extremely detrimental to the victim and his/her mental and physical well-being.
Where Does Cyberbullying Take Place?
Facebook and other social media websites can be used, and allow for “anonymous” cyberbullying to occur. For example, there may be a private group chat or page set up in which the child, who is the victim of the bullying is unaware of its existence. These more private setups are usually eventually discovered, which then brings the full weight of paranoia, embarrassment, and feelings of isolation on the victim. Text messages and group chats have the same effect upon its victims. Forums, typically gaming forums or other hobbyist forums, can also turn into cyberbullying arenas. Reddit.com, which is one of the largest and most visited social websites, is a forum-type of social media, and users there are nearly completely anonymous. This gives cyberbullies less empathy for their victims, and allows them to continually attack. Because the victim is not bullied at school or other areas where teachers are usually present, responsible adults are not alerted to the bullying or able to observe the usual tell-tale signs of bullying.
What are the Effects of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying usually has long-term detrimental effects on a victim. Truancy is quite common when a victim is continually bullied both in-person and through technology. Also, their grades may suffer, their self-esteem is hurt, depression can set in, they may have increased health-related issues, abuse of alcohol and/or drugs may begin, and many more negative effects can occur, depending on the child. With children using technology at younger ages, the data collected in past years is becoming less relevant. In 2010-2011, the School Crime Supplement reported 9% of children in grades 6-12 are cyberbullied, but the increase in children that use technology can result in a much higher number.
Some individuals groom children in hopes of initiating sexual contact with them. Grooming usually happens in children with lower self-esteem and those children who have issues of loneliness or isolation. In these instances, a targeted cyberbullying campaign can also be a tool for a predator.
Cyberbullying should not be seen as any less of a threat as traditional bullying. Since most cyberbullying is inflicted upon a child without the presence of adult supervision, the consequences can be far reaching. Cyberbullying will evolve as new technology is used and adapted, and so should methods to not only react against cyberbullying, but also to be proactive and stop cyberbullying before it happens.
Want more information on cyberbullying? StopBullying.gov has an entire section dedicated to this topic.