Online Bullying Stories: Old-Fashioned Bullying, Online
Online bullying, or what is often called cyberbullying, is virtually the same as bullying that is done face to face, except that with the online variety being done over the Internet.
The Internet has become the primary go-to source when it comes to getting information about almost anything. The trouble is that beyond using it for term papers and other legitimate uses, today’s young people use the Internet for such activities as socializing and playing games. Unfortunately, it is also used as an outlet for bullying. In fact, the perceived idea of anonymity on the Internet has made this type of bullying especially dangerous. Further, online bullying stories are numerous. They include:
In Ridgewood, N.J., sixth-grade students at Benjamin Franklin Middle School were recently charged with sending a dozen sexually explicit emails to a female student from a 12-year-old boy’s cellphone.
In Oklahoma City, OK, an 11-year-old boy had been bullied at school for several months, until one day he retaliated by striking back. He was caught and suspended from school for three days. When his mother picked him up from school she told him that his father would deal with him when he got home. Later that evening, his father found that he had killed himself on his bedroom floor.
A San Francisco, CA, 15-year-old girl committed suicide after three boys sexually assaulted her and posted photos of her half-naked body on the Internet and shared other photos over their email. Two of the boys received a punishment of 45 days in a juvenile detention facility. A third was required to face additional charges since he also had other pictures in his possession.
Unfortunately, the incidents of online bullying stories are almost endless.
The Nature of the Beast
Formal studies of more than 15,000 middle and high school students taken across the country confirm that more than 25 percent experienced cyberbullying in some form. These studies also showed that 10 percent of those students had experienced cyberbullying within 10 days of being questioned for the survey.
Although cyberbullying does include many of the same behaviours as old-fashioned bullying— harassment, humiliation, teasing and aggression–the phenomenon of cyberbullying presents unique challenges. Not only do those who perpetrate cyberbullying perceive their methods as anonymous, it can also happen at any time.
Contrary to popular belief, in an estimated 85 percent of all bullying cases, the bully is known to the victim. In fact, bullies are often part of the victim’s social circle offline as well.
Of primary concern is the effects that bullying has on victims, although the problem is known to affect the bully as well.
In the past, bullying was, for the most part, a school problem, quickly going away when the school bell sounded. Today, however, the Internet has made the problem of cyberbullying one that goes on 24 hours a day since victims often take part in social media interactions after school. These interactions allow bullies to continue their actions virtually anytime and in full view of anyone who happens upon their activities.
But the victims of cyberbullying aren’t the only ones who suffer from these activities. Less understood is the impact that the bullies themselves feel when they bully. A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry says that both victims and perpetrators of bullying endure long-lasting psychological damage. Agoraphobia, that fear of public places, as well as generalized anxiety and panic disorder, are frequent long-term results of bullying.
Bullies as well as their victims are also at higher risks for depression, panic disorders, and agoraphobia in their youth as well as into adulthood. This is especially true of females since males are more likely to commit suicide. Bullies themselves are at greater risk of antisocial behaviour disorders.
Unfortunately, most people believe that especially in the case of cyberbullying, little if anything can be done. This is not necessarily the case since virtually everything that is done online leaves some kind of digital footprint. As a result, fighting incidents of cyberbullying is more than just a case of one person’s word against another’s.
Experts agree that anyone who experiences cyberbullying should keep tangible evidence of the incidents. Whether it’s done via email, a Facebook post, chat rooms, or any other venue, get a printed record and show it to an adult they trust. In the past school administrators have been hesitant to intervene when the bullying activities do not extend to the school grounds, but this attitude has been changing over recent years.
In the event of adults who fall victim to cyberbullying, there is less structure that will support pursuing actions against the bully than there is with a school. Experts advise that adults should approach law enforcement officials with their evidence for action since many of today’s police agencies, even in smaller communities, have cybercrime units. Some adult victims have even gone so far as to hire lawyers to pursue actions against their cyberbullies.
One method that has also proved effective in dealing with cyberbullying is to simply speak up against it. Sound easy? Emily-Anne Rigal has proved it can be done, and effective.
Until a few years ago Rigal was an elementary school student who was bullied, primarily about her weight. The result took the form of a website and a nonprofit organization she started called westophate.org. Within a short time, westophate.org achieved a huge audience, all united in their efforts to stop bullying.
Within a few months, Rigal’s website had attracted the attention of hundreds of bullying victims who all reached out for others who supported them. Westophate.org gave each person a place where they could be united in a passion to stop bullying.
Since the founding of westophate.org, Rigal has received not only support but many honours for her efforts. These range from the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to a TeenNick HALO Award which was presented to her by Lady Gaga.
The Role of Parents
Parents and family can play an important role in dealing with bullying and cyberbullying, especially when it comes to bringing attention to their children’s efforts to deal with the problem. Parents can control how much time their children spend online as well as monitor what sites they visit when they are online. Being aware of what their children are experiencing online will bring them to the front of the matter instead of seeing their children lock themselves in their room without being aware of what they are dealing with.
Technological giants are also working to help children as well as parents dealing with cyberbullying. For example, computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on an automated solution with an algorithm that automatically detects cyberbullying language. The program will work to identify common offensive words and phrases in unique categories such as racial and ethnic slurs, intelligence insults, sexualized statements, and comments having to do with social acceptance or rejection.
The plan for the program is to incorporate it into social media and other websites to ask users things such as “Are you sure you want to say this? when a questionable statement is made. This won’t solve the problem of cyberbullying entirely, but along with a gradual rise in awareness of the problem and the negative effects cyberbullying can have, bullies will gradually learn that their conduct is not acceptable.
Other methods of using technology to deal with cyberbullying are via the use of tools such as an incorporated “Bully Button” which would freeze the action currently on a screen in order for those who are offended can print records for reporting to authorities.
Much of this, of course, is still in development, but at least for now the best way to begin dealing with cyberbullying—any bullying—is awareness. Too often parents and others who should have been able to deal with a serious bullying problem say, “I had no idea it was going on” until it is too late.
The nature of bullying has become something much different than it was only a few years ago. As much as the Internet has improved lives every day, it has also created situations that have become worse. Just as is the case with so many issues, talking with a child about what is happening in their life will bring issues such as cyberbullying into the light where it can be dealt with most effectively.
Sources: CNN, Time