Cyberbullying is much more pervasive than most people like to admit. And despite the fact that it often flies under the radar or goes undetected, cyberbullying can have a profound and negative impact on a person’s life. Whether you’ve been bullied in the past or suspect someone you love may be involved, it’s important that you understand cyberbullying and how it can be prevented.
Cyberbullying in 2015
Bullying has existed for as long as people have inhabited the earth. However, it wasn’t until the inception of the internet and the proliferation of social media and other virtual tools of communication that cyberbullying became a threat to unsuspecting victims.
Now, according to statistics gathered from sources like the i-SAFE Foundation, The Harford County Examiner, the Cyberbullying Research Center, and BullyingStatistics.org, we can see the pervasiveness of this unfortunate behavior. Just read through the following information to gain a clearer understanding of why this issue matters:
- More than 50 percent of adolescents and teenagers have been bullied online at least once. Virtually the same number have engaged in cyberbullying themselves.
- The majority of adolescents don’t tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.
- More than 25 percent of adolescents and teenagers have been repeatedly bullied via the internet or through their cell phones.
- Less than 20 percent of all cyberbullying incidents are ever brought to the attention of law enforcement.
- Roughly one out of every five teens has either sent or received sexually suggestive pictures.
- Adolescent girls are more likely to be involved in cyberbullying than male counterparts.
- Victims of cyberbullying are exponentially more likely to have low self esteem or seriously consider suicide.
- 10-20 percent of young people experience regular cyberbullying.
It’s not just adolescents and teenagers that are affected by cyberbullying, though. Despite the fact that most of the attention centers around children, studies show many adults are also victims and perpetrators of online harassment.
Specific Examples of Cyberbullying
By nature, cyberbullying is pervasive across a number of mediums – all involving the use of social networks, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, online games, blogs, or other virtual/anonymous technologies. Because it’s not contained, cyberbullying is challenging to stop. Some common forms of cyberbullying include:
- Harassment. Cyber bullies will directly target people online and explicitly harass them for no apparent reason. This is common among adolescents and teenagers on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- Physical threats. Whereas harassment is generally contained online, some bullying spills over into real life. Physical threats are commonly used when the perpetrator knows the victim. This threat of physical harm is one of the more dangerous forms of cyberbullying.
- Spreading rumors. From an emotional or psychological point of view, the spreading of rumors or lies is extremely damaging. The viral nature of the internet gives cyber bullies the power to launch major attacks on unsuspecting victims.
- Impersonation. In some cases, cyberbullying occurs when one individual attempts to impersonate another. In doing so, the impersonator may choose to perform actions that belittle the victim.
- Stalking. Virtual stalking is also becoming a popular form of cyberbullying. In these instances, the perpetrator bullies the victim via multiple mediums. These may include any of the following: social networking sites, chat rooms, blogs, phone calls, text messages, or emails.
While these are the most common forms of cyberbullying, new methods are being developed on a daily basis. With each new technology, the options for anonymous harassment multiply.
Detrimental Impact of Cyberbullying
It’s difficult to define the impact of cyberbullying, as each individual responds to harassment differently. However, those close to the issue have found that children who are cyber bullied are more likely to:
- Consider or commit suicide
- Skip school and extracurricular activities
- Spend more time in seclusion
- Experience in-person bullying
- Have lower self esteem
- Use alcohol and drugs
- Have more health problems
- Feel alone and isolated
- Experience humiliation and embarrassment
- Develop anxiety and/or depression
Tips for Preventing Cyberbullying
As a parent, friend, or victim, it’s important that you play a role in defeating and preventing cyberbullying in the future. Here are a few tips for taking a stand:
- Have frank conversations. If you know someone who is currently involved in cyberbullying – perpetrator or victim – honest conversations can go a long way in resolving the issue. Often, people don’t understand the full impact of cyberbullying and are totally unaware of the consequences. A frank discussion is the best solution.
- Establish internet privacy settings. For victims, it’s important to establish internet privacy settings to combat cyber threats. Social networking sites like Facebook allow users to control who can view their profile and post content to it. By blocking cyberbullies and disallowing people you don’t know from accessing your profile, you can protect yourself.
- Think before you post. While there’s never an excuse for someone to bully another individual, victims often increase their chances of being harassed without even realizing it. Remember that the internet is a public forum and that anything you post has the chance of being seen by other people. Avoid posting controversial content or making unsubstantiated claims. It’s best to avoid disagreement whenever possible.
- Keep personal information private. It’s never okay to share personal or private information online. Your phone number, email address, physical address, social security number, credit card information, online passwords, and other data shouldn’t be given to people you don’t know. By protecting your information and guarding your identity you can diminish your chances of being bullied.
- Speak out against cyberbullying. Finally, everyone should speak out against cyberbullying whenever they get an opportunity. Dozens of different support groups exist and it’s important that people from all backgrounds get involved.
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