?For decades, physical bullying has been a consistent problem for young people attending school. Yet the rapid growth of the Internet has redefined how students pick on one another, giving the traditional bullying a new form. Cyberbullying is now the new era of bullying; where faces can be hidden and hurtful words can be stamped for the world to see.
Since the creation of social networking sites, online bullying has become a global phenomenon and has been affecting hundreds of lives worldwide, especially lives of young adults.
Nobody deserves to go through a situation like this and a solution needs to be found so lives can be saved and the Internet can again be a safe place for everybody. Social networking websites have changed the dynamic of the Internet in recent years (Top 10, 2012). The old Internet cycle, which was only an outlet for news articles, is gone, it has now become much more than just news and information, it is an outlet for entertainment and to communicate with people globally in the click of a button. There are a variety of networking websites; however, the most popular and influential worldwide are Facebook and Twitter (Top 10, 2012).
Quite shockingly are the statistics about social networking and Facebook numbers alone, are enough to prove the huge impact that these sites can have a huge impact on society (Honigman, 2012). Facebook has 850 million active users every month and 85% of the women that uses Facebook claim that they have negative attitudes towards their online “friends” or more so they should be called acquaintances. Most disturbing is the fact that 90% of all sex related links are shared with more frequency than any other link (Honigman, 2012).
With its pros and cons, social networking has become more of a life style than anything else (Smarty, 2013). On the positive side, communication has become simple and easy; people from all over the world have the ability to communicate with one another no matter where they are. For business to customer relationships there have been improvements, due to the fact that businesses can now market their products or services in an easier and more affordable way and customers are able to constantly be part of their favorite stores and businesses, receiving often updates and promotions.
Social networking allows people with same interests come together to share their ideas and feelings, in those called “groups” in which most of the time, the group’s members do not even know each other in real life (Smarty, 2013). On the negative side, social network takes away the real face-to-face communication and that exciting feeling of receiving a letter in the mail from a distant friend or family member (Cosmato, 2013).
In person socialization in a lot of cases, is turning into an almost virtual scenario, where people meet with friends but are constantly checking their phones for the latest updates on social network. An issue with virtual communication is that gives people more confidence to say no or to argue about an issue. This can disguise the personality of a person, because they are really hiding their feelings and insecurities. A major problem that is contributed by the easy access to social networking is the issue of cyberbullying.
Inappropriate messages and contents can be quickly spread all over these websites with the intent to harass and damage someone’s reputation (Cosmato, 2013). Just as if real life bullying was not enough, cyberbullying is now, the newest form of destruction and interruption that someone can perform against another human beings life (Furman, 2013). Teens and even children are hidden behind their computers and cell phones with the malicious objective to attack others with hurtful words and/or images that can cause permanent damage.
There is various forms that cyberbullying can be performed, such as sending messages, phone calls, impersonating someone, creating websites and blogs about the victims, and taking videos or pictures of a person in order to embarrass them (Furman, 2013). Instagram is becoming the place of choice for cyberbullies when it comes to images (Furman, 2013). Pictures of the victims are being posted together with a question that requires other people to vote, such as he or she is stupid or fat, and later, the picture is sent to the victim that will never forget the horrible insult.
Being bullied online even if by a single individual is like being bullied by the whole world, considering that anyone can have access to the content and anything posted online spreads like a wildfire. Society needs to be aware that cyberbullying is a problem that affects every country, not only the United States and it needs to end (Furman, 2013). As a matter of fact, in a recent study, China was ranked the number one country for cyberbullying, 70% of young people in China claimed to already have experienced online bullying against them, followed by Singapore with 58%, and India with 53% (Shetty, 2012).
According to the charity Ditch the Label’s Annual Cyberbullying Survey, even though thousands of distasteful pictures are published and shared on Instagram, still the most popular websites around the world for online bullying are Facebook, Twitter, and Ask. fm (George, 2013). The survey sampled over 10,000 adolescents from the age of thirteen to twenty-two years of age, from different countries and seven in ten of them have experienced cyberbullying.
The numbers are alarming and worthy of attention, 37% of surveyed suffered frequently cyberbullying and 20% suffered extremely on a daily basis. Sadly, the study numbers also show that 70% of young people around the world that have been victims of cyberbullying suffer from problems with self-esteem and socialization (George, 2013). In addition, teens from Ireland actually consider cyberbullying much worse than real life bullying (Croffey, 2012). Having in mind that it is much harder to run away from the virtual world’s abuse because of its frequency and lack of place limit (Coffrey, 2012).
Often cyberbullying is considered worse than traditional bullying in light of that most of the time it is done anonymously. The audience can easily be global and there is no place, such as school since all it is needed to be performed is a cell phone or computer, and the victim can be attacked 24 hours a day 7 days a week (Traditional, 2013). Traditional or online, bullying in general is a horrific problem to society and an even bigger issue when directed to those that are going through adolescence (Traditional, 2013).
Teen years are the crucial phase to a person’s development and unfortunately, at this specific period a variety of emotions take place leaving them vulnerable and insecure about themselves. The process of being a victim of online bullying immediately makes them believe that something is wrong with them and these insecurities together with cyberbullying can lead to terrible effects in adolescents (Traditional, 2013). Additionally, cyberbullying can have psychological and physical effects to the victim (Nelson, 2010). Although, no contact happens in real life, the physical effects are still present.
Kids that suffer these attacks can experience physical effects; like headaches, difficulty sleeping, stomach problems, and many more issues. Side effects that cause harm to the individual’s mental health are very concerning and there is a diversity of psychological effects that an individual can suffer from online bullying (Nelson, 2010) Fear plays a big role in the psychological effects associated with cyberbullying, where the person fears the situation and also develop a fear of using technology (Nelson, 2010). A sudden change in the behavior
towards computers or cell phones where the individual becomes afraid of having any contact with technology devices fearing that something could happen is a sign that something is affecting them (Nelson, 2010). Another effect is isolation in which they develop other symptoms like low self-esteem, and depression that sometimes can lead to suicide (Sherman, 2011). In most cases isolation is the first effect after their issue with fear, making the victim want to avoid school or social events, with a feeling of being alone against the acts of bullying.
In consequence of that, low self-esteem starts to develop and can easily progress into depression. Particularly, depression is a serious issue among teenagers and it can result in episodes of over-eating or refusing to eat, the use of alcohol and illegal drugs, bursts of anger or sadness, poor performance in school, and the most distressing, thoughts of suicide (Sherman, 2011). As indicated by the National Health Institute victims of cyberbullying have significantly higher levels of depression than victims of traditional bullying (Bock & Miller, 2010).
Lamentably, depression in some cases, can result in suicidal thoughts and a research from Yale University that included 13 different countries says that teens are 2 to 9 times more likely to cogitate suicide if victim of bullying, especially online (Bullying, 2008). To compliment, another study done by The Adolescent Communication Institute of Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that in the United States alone, kids that are victims of cyberbullying are four times more likely to think about suicide when compared to non-victims (Romer, 2010).
Cases of suicide linked to cyberbullying are frequently focus of news headlines worldwide (Edwards, 2013). A report shows that every year 4,500 kids take their lives in consequence of cyberbullying (Laird, 2012). Suicide is the third leading cause of teen’s death in the United States and in Australia; suicide is the second leading cause, staying behind of only motor vehicle accidents (Laird, 2012). Ask. fm, a social networking website from Europe where half of its subscribers are under the age of eighteen, is linked to nine suicide cases that happened between September 2012 and September 2013 (Edward, 2013).
In addition, these nine cases of suicide are important to demonstrate to society, the global dimension that cyberbullying has taken over the years and how it is affecting kids from all over the world (Edward, 2013). In other for this global phenomenon to stop, the whole world needs to come together as one, and fortunately, 80% of people worldwide are aware of the problem and agree that parents and schools are the fundamental pieces in the prevention of these mean acts (Smith, 2012).
In some countries, the rates of parents that claim to be actively conscious of the situation are high, such as 91% in Indonesia and 83% in Poland; with that being a major step for the dissolution of this problem (Smith, 2012). Besides parents, schools are very important for this process, since kids usually spend more hours in school than anywhere else except at home (Battista, 2011). Schools have an important role in educating kids and teens about cyberbullying, teaching them to have mutual respect for individuals, independent of race or gender.
Even more, they need to educate kids about how the inappropriate use of technology can deeply affect someone’s life and that even though cyberbullying is an online practice, can still be brought up to justice with harsh consequences (Battista, 2011). Equally important is the need of a reform in international legislative, where all countries should be in accordance to better perform against cyberbullying acts (Elder, 2011).
Unfortunately, these procedure is not as easy at it sounds. From a total of 196 countries, only 45 have some type of law that includes online bullying (Elder, 2011). Some countries, like the United States, have not yet reach a law agreement among its states to combat cyberbullying; furthermore, 28 out of 50 states in the country do not even have included cyberbullying in its traditional bullying law so far (Hinduja, 2013).
Finally, social networking websites should allow users the option to block anonymous messages; doing so, harm could be avoided and potential victims saved. After all, these websites have evolved through the years, becoming a global sensation and now influencing many lives around the world. Some individuals, mostly teens, suffer the negative impacts of social networking through cyberbullying that can leave lifetime scars.
Innumerous of them chose to take their lives, leaving behind families and friends with anxiety that they did not do anything to help the victim. Cyberbullying needs to be stopped before it starts, and that is why families and schools, worldwide, needs to come together and do everything on their powers to stop this heartless attacks. Moreover, the legislative system of every country should change their laws regarding online bullying and come to a global agreement, so kids and teens can live in a better and safer place.