Technology is often regarded as a positive source of social change. In recent decades, advancements in information technology have been seen as contributors to economic prosperity and well-being. This technology has also impacted society in negative ways. One manifestation of this negative side is the practice of Cyberbullying and Social Media Bullying. Trends data indicate a growing prevalence of cyberbullying that warrants careful inspection. This paper evaluates ways that technology has affected our sense of community. In particular, this paper focuses on cyberbullying as a social trend that represents the negative side of information technology among today’s youth. Additionally, cyberbullying is evaluated from sociological and psychological perspectives. Technology offers gifted children opportunities to explore advanced content and express their creativity. However, parents and educators must guide gifted children to avoid negative consequences of technology such as plagiarism, cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content, and technology addiction.
What is bullying?
Bullying is repeated aggressive behavior that can be physical, verbal, or relational, in-person or online. Bullies are often relentless, bullying over and over again for long periods of time. You may live in constant fear of where and when the bully will strike next, what they’ll do, and how far they’ll go.
1. What is Cyberbullying ?
Cyberbullying is when a person uses digital technology to deliberately and repeatedly harass, humiliate, embarrass, torment, threaten, pick on or intimidate another person. Cyberbullying is the bullying and harrassment that takes place on digital devices such as phones, computers,and tablets. Cyberbullying happens in lots of different ways – in text messages, emails and online games, and on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Tumblr etc.
A few examples include:
Posting unwanted pictures or messages to social media outlets.
Sending harassing text messages
Creating fake accounts to impersonate someone else
Accessing private files or folders on personal computers
Cyberbullying can be particularly distressing for children as they feel there is no refuge. The bully is not confined to a physical space and can bully the child from anywhere at anytime. The child can feel the bully’s omnipresence and feel as if there is no escape. In some cases, online bullying also allows the bully to be anonymous causing the child more distress as they dont know who is responsible.
The top questions on cyberbullying
|1. Am I being bullied online? How do you tell the difference between a joke and bullying?|
|2. What are the effects of cyberbullying?|
|3. How can cyberbullying affect my mental health?|
|4. Who should I talk to if someone is bullying me online? Why is reporting important?|
|5. I’m experiencing cyberbullying, but I’m afraid to talk to my parents about it. How can I approach them?|
|6. How can I help my friends report a case of cyberbullying especially if they don’t want to do it?|
|7. How do we stop cyberbullying without giving up access to the internet?|
|8. How do I prevent my personal information from being used to manipulate or humiliate me on social media?|
|9. Is there a punishment for cyberbullying?|
|10. Technology companies don’t seem to care about online bullying and harassment. Are they being held responsible?|
|11. Are there any online anti-bullying tools for children or young people?|
The effects of bullying and cyberbullying
Whether you’re being targeted by bullies or cyberbullies, the results are similar:
You’re made to feel hurt, angry, afraid, helpless, hopeless, isolated, ashamed, and even guilty that the bullying is somehow your fault. You may even feel suicidal.
Your physical health is likely to suffer, and you are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, or adult onset PTSD.
You’re more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school to avoid being bullied.
In many cases, cyberbullying can be even more painful than face-to-face bullying because:
Cyberbullying can happen anywhere, at any time. You may experience it even in places where you’d normally feel safe, such as your home, and at times when you’d least expect it, like during the weekend in the company of your family. It can seem like there’s no escape from the taunting and humiliation.
A lot of cyberbullying can be done anonymously, so you may not be sure who is targeting you. This can make you feel even more threatened and can embolden bullies, as they believe online anonymity means they’re less likely to get caught. Since cyberbullies can’t see your reaction, they will often go much further in their harassment or ridicule than they would if they were face-to-face with you.
Cyberbullying can be witnessed by potentially thousands of people. Emails can be forwarded to many, many people while social media posts or website comments can often be seen by anyone. The more far-reaching the bullying, the more humiliating it can become.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF CYBERBULLYING
There are many ways that someone can fall victim to or experience cyberbullying when using technology and the internet. Some common methods of cyberbullying are:
- Harassment – When someone is being harassed online, they are being subjected to a string of abusive messages or efforts to contact them by one person or a group of people. People can be harassed through social media as well as through their mobile phone (texting and calling) and email. Most of the contact the victim will receive will be of a malicious or threatening nature.
- Doxing – Doxing is when an individual or group of people distribute another person’s personal information such as their home address, cell phone number or place of work onto social media or public forums without that person’s permission to do so. Doxing can cause the victim to feel extremely anxious and it can affect their mental health.
- Cyberstalking – Similar to harassment, cyberstalking involves the perpetrator making persistent efforts to gain contact with the victim, however this differs from harassment – more commonly than not, people will cyberstalk another person due to deep feelings towards that person, whether they are positive or negative. Someone who is cyberstalking is more likely to escalate their stalking into the offline world.
- Revenge porn – Revenge porn, is when sexually explicit or compromising images of a person have been distributed onto social media or shared on revenge porn specific websites without their permission to do so. Normally, images of this nature are posted by an ex-partner, who does it with the purpose of causing humiliation and damage to their reputation.
- Swatting – Swatting is when someone calls emergency responders with claims of dangerous events taking place at an address. People swat others with the intention of causing panic and fear when armed response units arrive at their home or place of work. Swatting is more prevalent within the online gaming community.
- Corporate attacks – In the corporate world, attacks can be used to send masses of information to a website in order to take the website down and make it non-functional. Corporate attacks can affect public confidence, damaging businesses reputations and in some instances, force them to collapse.
- Account hacking – Cyberbullies can hack into a victim’s social media accounts and post abusive or damaging messages. This can be particularly damaging for brands and public figures.
- False profiles – Fake social media accounts can be setup with the intention of damaging a person or brand’s reputation. This can easily be done by obtaining publicly available images of the victim and making the account appear as authentic as possible.
- Slut shaming – Slut shaming is when someone is called out and labelled as a “slut” for something that they have done previously or even just how they dress. This kind of cyberbullying often occurs when someone has been sexting another person and their images or conversations become public. It is seen more commonly within young people and teenagers but anyone can fall victim to being slut shamed.
WHY DO PEOPLE CYBERBULLY?
There are many reasons that someone might choose to cyberbully another person. Some of the most common reasons are:
- They’ve been cyberbullied themselves – Someone may choose to cyberbully another person because they have been through cyberbullying themselves. They might feel like it’s okay to treat people in that way or find that it is the only way to express their own pain.
- To fit in – If someone sees another person being cyberbullied by a group of people, they may feel that by participating, they will ‘fit in’ or develop a new group of friends themselves.
- Home life – The perpetrator may be having a difficult home life and misplace their anger and frustration onto someone else. Most of the time, this will happen when the cyberbully doesn’t have anyone to talk to about what they are going through.
- Power – Someone may choose to cyberbully in order to feel powerful and have the ability to control a situation.
- Jealously – Jealously is one of the most common reasons for cyberbullying, especially for teenagers and young people. Growing up as teenager can be a difficult time as young people are discovering themselves, and they may feel insecure about their appearance. Because they feel insecure, they might compare themselves to their peers which can result in envy based cyberbullying and abuse.
- Cyberbullying and video games – Online gaming has grown rapidly over the last few years. This boom has also seen a rise in online players reporting toxicity and abuse when gaming online. Online gamers have the ability to talk to other users through the use of a microphone to chat – this can be used to encourage teamwork, build friendships and improve the overall gaming experience in general. Some players take advantage of this technology and use it to abuse players through verbal abuse or text/messaging abuse.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING CYBERBULLIED
If you are being cyberbullied, it can be easy to think that no one will understand or be able to help you – but that isn’t the case. See below for some advice for how to deal with cyberbullying.
- Talk to someone – When going through cyberbullying, it is important that you build up a network of support from friends, family and people you can trust. These people will be able to help and support you. Talking to people in times of crisis can not only add a voice of reason or rational thought, it can also help you feel better for being able to share your thoughts and feelings without judgement. If you are a young person or teenager who has fallen victim to cyberbullying, you might want to consider talking to a parent or teacher that you feel you can trust. If the cyberbullying is occurring in school or it is involving people who attend your school, a teacher should be able to help you resolve the issue effectively.
- Don’t retaliate – When people are cyberbullying others, they are normally doing it for a reaction. If you choose to not retaliate, they will eventually become bored and move on.
- Assess the threat – If the cyberbully is sending you messages of a threatening nature or you have reason to be worried about your safety, you should contact law enforcement. They will be able to help you with your immediate safety and give you advice on what to do going forward.
It’s important to remember that law enforcement are only there for emergencies and you should only be contacting them if you are in immediate danger or believe your personal safety is at risk.
HOW DO PEOPLE GET CYBERBULLIED?
There are many ways in which someone can be cyberbullied. The majority of hate campaigns take place on social media platforms and through phone calls.
On some social media platforms, you can create pages and secret groups of people. Tools such as these are used to organize hate campaigns.
2. Social media bullying
Social media bullying, sometimes referred to as covert bullying, is often harder to recognise and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and / or cause humiliation. It can occur via apps, online social media, forums, text, email, gaming, or any other place people can view and participate in or share content.
Social bullying can include:
- lying and spreading rumours
- negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
- playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
- mimicking unkindly
- encouraging others to social exclude someone
- damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance.
As social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and others continue to grow in popularity, adolescents are spending more of their time online navigating a complex virtual world.
Exploring social media addiction
When adolescents are online, they adapt to a different set of social norms than when they’re interacting with their peers in person. Oftentimes, they are more aggressive or critical on social media because of the anonymity they have online and their ability to avoid retaliation. Additionally, cyberbullies may feel less remorse or empathy when engaging in these behaviors because they can’t see the direct impact of their actions.
“Social media addiction is when people crave it when they’re not on it, and continue their social media use despite negative consequences,” said Giordano. “Some negative consequences could be they’re tired during the day because they’re scrolling all night long, they’re having conflicts with their parents, they’re getting poor grades in school or they’re engaging in actions online that they later regret, but they still continue to use social media.”
Who is at risk?
All young people are in danger of being bullied at some point during their adolescence—but there are certain populations at greater risk. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as youth who are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be more likely to be bullied.
What are the results?
The effects of bullying involve both the bully and the victim. Youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer from the following:
- Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide
- Health issues like headaches, sleep problems, abdominal pain, bed-wedding, and fatigue
- Academic issues including poor attendance, low test scores, and increased dropout rates
Youth who bully:
- Are at greater risk of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol
- Perform poorly in school and have a poor perception of school environment
- Are more likely to become involved in criminal activity and to experience psychiatric disorders*
How Can Parents Help?
If your child is being cyberbullied
- Offer comfort and support. Talking about any bullying experiences you had in your childhood might help your child feel less alone.
- Let your child know that it’s not their fault. Bullying says more about the bully than the victim. Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Remind your child you’re in this together. Reassure your child that you’ll figure out what to do.
- Notify the school. Tell the principal, school nurse, or a counselor or teacher about the situation. Many schools, school districts, and after-school clubs have rules for responding to cyberbullying. These vary by district and state. But before reporting the problem, let your child know that you plan to do so, so that you can work out a plan that makes you both feel comfortable.
- Encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying. Doing so just makes the situation worse.
- Keep records. Keep screen shots of the threatening messages, pictures, and texts. These can be used as evidence with the bully’s parents, school, employer, or even the police.
- Get help. If your son or daughter agrees, meeting with a therapist may help work through feelings. A counselor or mediator at school may work with your child alone or together with the bully.
Other things that may prevent future cyberbullying:
- Block the bully. Most devices have settings that let you electronically block emails, messages, or texts from specific people.
- Limit access to technology. Although it is hurtful, many kids who are bullied can’t resist the temptation to check websites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computer in a public place in the house and put limits on the use of cellphones and games. You might be able to turn off text messaging services during certain hours, and most websites, apps, and smartphones include parental control options that give parents access to their kids’ messages and online life.
- Monitor use of social media. A number of programs and apps can monitor teens’ social media accounts and alert parents to any inappropriate language or photos. Many software programs and apps are available — from free to expensive — that can give you detailed reports of your child’s browsing history and tell you how much time your child spent online and on each site.
- Know what sites your child uses. This as an opportunity to encourage kids and teens to teach you about something they know well — technology! This shows your child that you are interested in how they spend their time online, while helping you understand how to best monitor their online safety.
- Be part of your kids’ online world. Ask to “friend” or “follow” your child on social media sites, but do not abuse this privilege by commenting or posting anything to your child’s profile. Check their postings and the sites kids visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online.
- Put it in writing. Write smartphone and social media contracts for your kids that you’re willing to enforce.
Bullying Prevention in the Technology Age
As we embrace more and more new technology, troublesome new trends—such as cyber bullying—have emerged that may have more widespread effects than traditional bullying alone. Cyber bullying makes it difficult to track, respond to, and combat incidents of bullying. It is thus important to develop prevention programs that target specific issues of bias, ethnicity, culture, and equity. Certain policies, practices, programs, and legislative changes can begin to address the prevention of bullying and cyber bullying, and the many negative outcomes associated with both.
Definition: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”1
“Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology.”2
The person who bullies or cyber bullies purposely inflicts, or intends to inflict, harm on the bullying victim.
What can I do if I’m being bullied online?
Getting bullied on social media or through text messaging can feel really terrible. Being connected to your phone, tablet, or computer all the time means that a bully can sneak into your life and make it feel like there’s no safe place to be. But there are things you can do to stop online bullying.
- Change your privacy settings. Make sure that all of your social media accounts have very strict privacy settings. Set your accounts to “friends only” or “private.”
- Block and un-friend. Block any harassing accounts, email addresses, or phone numbers.
- Keep your personal details private. Don’t post your home address, phone number, school name, or any other personal information about yourself.
- Take a break from your phone or computer. If it feels like the online bullying just won’t stop, take a break from social media. Turn off your phone or put it out of your sight.
- Save harassing emails, texts, or messages. Take screenshots of harassment. This can be important evidence down the line.
- Report bullying where it happens. Report online abuse to Facebook or Twitter if you’re bullied on those platforms. You can report to other site admins if you’re bullied on their sites.
- Tell an adult that you trust. Talk with a parent, teacher, coach, counselor, or someone who can be supportive. Adults can only help if they know about the problem.
- Don’t respond to mean or threatening messages. This can make bullying worse. Also, you could get in trouble if you make threats back.
- Report serious threats to the police. If someone threatens your safety or shares sexual pictures or video of you, report it to the police immediately.