Why Cyberbullying is destroying our children’s lives

I recently received an email from Jane H via the Freedom after the Sharks website after she had read one of my blogs that I wrote on 15th May 2015: “Is cyberbullying really necessary?”

Bullying has been around for decades, even centuries. In fact, the word “Bully” originated during the 1530s. On the contrary, cyberbullying has emerged thanks to the advent of technology. In the 1990s and 2000s, webpages, cellphones, and early social networking sites like MySpace introduced cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets. Social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms such as Facebook, XBox Live, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other chat rooms can be great fun and a positive experience. But what do you do when things go wrong?

As technology keeps evolving, cyberbullying progressively is getting worse. Different platforms and ways of degrading an individual got easier such as blogging and posting anonymously. Regrettably, this has caused some young people to deteriorate physically and emotionally or even take their own lives. All of these cyberbullying cases have prompted several groups to discuss and find an answer to this conundrum. Some of their solutions conflict with each other, but they are committed to stopping cyberbullying.

Nowadays, people associate social media with negativity, such as cyberbullying or cyberhacking. In actuality, only a small portion of youth is misusing it. Instead of using social media to hurt others, the majority are using it as a way to heal. For example, many teenagers go on YouTube to connect with their peers, find role models, and deal with their emotional and mental health.

The facts are, recently, there has been an increasing trend of “cyberbullying.” “Cyberbullying” entails the harassment of students using social media websites, text messages, emails, and other technology. “Cyberbullying” presents several new and troubling problems for state government, the school systems, parents, and the courts. Most importantly, “cyberbullying” can lead to dire consequences, such as grief-induced suicides. Sadly, this occurs frequently because “cyberbullying” is often aimed at emotionally fragile adolescents. Clearly, such tragic consequences should be prevented.

This video by Trisha Prabhu ‘Rethink before you type’ TEDxTeen conveys her emotions and passionate comments on the subject:

Bullying is a persistent problem for educators and policy leaders across education, particularly with the ubiquity and popularity of social media platforms. The problem has become so embedded in the culture that we now see the appearance of cyberbully laws in many countries against such terror.

Statistics show that Cyberbullying appears to be somewhat less frequent than face-to-face bullying, but the consequences may be even more severe, issues like trauma, depression, anxiety, academic problems and social problems can result from cyberbullying.

Schools have responded by amending anti-bullying codes to include cyberbullying in their social media policies, anyone who makes threats to a child on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It’s against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause alarm or distress. It could also be against the 1997 Harassment Act.

Many cyberbullies think that bullying others online is funny. Cyber bullies may not realise the consequences for themselves of cyberbullying. The things teens post online now may reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job. Cyber bullies can lose their cell phone or online accounts for cyber bullying. Also, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying, and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the results can include being registered as a sex offender.

Teens may think that if they use a fake name they won’t get caught, but there are many ways to track someone who is cyberbullying.
Despite the potential damage of cyber bullying, it is alarmingly common among adolescents and teens. According to Cyberbullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:

Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online;
• Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet;
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Further alarming statistics show:
• Around half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying;
• Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyberbully-victim;
• Fewer than 1 in 5 cyberbullying incidents are reported to law enforcement;
• 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras;
• About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others;
• Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyberbullying.

The Cyberbullying Research Center also did a series of surveys that found these cyberbullying statistics:
• Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyberbullying;
• About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly;
• Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumours are the most common type of cyberbullying;
• Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyberbullies or their victims;
• Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyberbullies than girls;
• Cyberbullying affects all races;
• Cyberbullying victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and to consider suicide.

There are many types of different technical tools available in the market to support you and keep your children safe online. These vary from VPNs and antivirus software to internet filters and parental controls. Essentially, none of these are really enough to help keep your child safe.

The below link is a useful guide: ‘The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet’

In summary, cyberbullying is a serious issue, and like any form of bullying it can have long-term effects on its victims.

As technology continues to become an increasingly large part of our daily lives, and the lives of our children, it is important to recognize the dangers of cyberbullying and to take definite steps to prevent it.

Parents, teachers, and children must work together to prevent cyberbullying and to make the internet a safer place for all. Children should be educated on what to do and who to go to in the event that they encounter a cyberbully.

And parents should encourage schools to update their technology policies to help prevent instances of online bullying. With parents, children, and educators working together we can decrease the instances of cyberbullying and create a safer and more rewarding online environment for all of our children.

As Ellen DeGeneres once said:

‘We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.’

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