Have you ever been scared to log on to Facebook because your classmates have been posting mean things about or worse texting them to you? Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to hassle, threaten, verbally abuse or humiliate another teen. In fact, any use of computers, cell phones, iPads, or any other form of electronic device to emotionally harm another young person constitutes cyber-bullying. When adults engage in this type of online bullying, it may rise to the level of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, both of which are considered crimes.
More than 16 percent of high school students in 2011 said they were cyber-bullied. In addition, the 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement found that 6 percent of students in middle school experienced some form of cyber-bullying. This is awful because cyber-bullying can be relentless — it can occur 24 hours a day, every day of the week, torturing the victim even when he/she is alone. There are two kinds of cyber bullying: direct attacks and cyber bullying by proxy (aka using others to help bully the victim, either with or without the accomplice's knowledge). Cyber bullying by proxy often gets more complicated and is very dangerous.
Although some people think it might be funny to post an embarrassing picture or video of a classmate or friend, the consequences that result are anything but laughable—for both the perpetrator and the victim. For the victim, it could be almost impossible to remove the offensive picture or video. If the content went viral, no one would have control over the outcome. Being the victim of cyber-bullying can lead to problems with school attendance, the usage of alcohol and other drugs, low self-esteem, and isolation. For the perpetrator, they might not realize that the picture, video, or nasty post could pop up when they are applying for college or for a job. Depending on the nature of the cyber-bullying, the bully can be charged with a crime and if sexual content was involved, for example “sexting,” the bully can be registered as a sex offender. That kind of thing doesn’t go away when the joke is over.
Cyber-bullies use a variety of tactics on their victims that can harm them emotionally. They may take pictures of a conversation bad-talking an individual and send it to him/her via text or IM. This often makes the individual feel betrayed by people they believed were their friends. The bully could also post pictures of a conversation they had with the victim that included the victim revealing personal information about him/herself. The victim is then made more vulnerable on the Internet. The perpetrator could take pictures or videos of the unsuspecting teen in bathrooms or locker rooms and distribute them electronically. They could also impersonate the individual and make socially unacceptable online comments in chat rooms and on sites like Facebook. This could lead to the victim being further harassed or isolated because of these comments.
Young people who are cyber-bullied feel like they are constantly under attack. They can become mistrustful of other peers and depressed from their feelings of isolation.
Although typical bullies pick on socially isolated teens with few friends or supportive individuals, cyber-bullies tend to prey on close friends or those in a similar social network. That means that being the victim of cyber-bullying can make you feel separated from all of your friends, not just the person harassing you. Also, studies show that being cyber-bullied makes it harder to enter into a successful romantic relationship with another person. All of those things being said about you online make you feel like you shouldn’t be intimate with people.
Have a problem with bullying? Or know someone who does? Here are tips on how to handle a bully. GO
Sources: KidsHealth, Stop Bullying, The National Crime Prevention Council, STOP Cyberbullying, News Medical