Technology has changed the way teens and pre-teens interact with one another, allowing them to exchange information at an astonishing speed. Not only can they send a text or instant message to plan dinner dates and meet-ups, they can now IM someone to say how ugly, weird, or stupid he or she looked in school that day. They can create a facebook, myspace, or tumblr page dedicated to writing cruel or hurtful comments about a fellow classmate. Cyber-bullying has managed to change the face of bullying because it utilizes technology to target its victims. Teens who are bullied at schooloften feel that they can go home for a reprieve from all the bullying. However, cyber-bullying can become an almost inescapable aspect of a victim’s life because of the wide spread use of technology in today’s society. It is no longer enough to leave school in order to get away from the bullying because victims end up seeing hurtful comments written about them within the safety of their own homes. Cyber-bullying has managed to take the lives of hundreds of young people who have committed suicide due to being bullied on a constant basis through the use of technology.
Internet bully behavior is a major issue when dealing with the effects of cyber-bullying. Many times it is difficult to pinpoint the identity of the bully, and when the bullying occurs through social media networks, it allows thousands of young people to get involved in targeting a victim. Furthermore, comments written on the internet can spread within a matter of seconds, and become a permanent fixture in the cyber world. For these reasons, cyber-bullying can usually lead to depression, low self-esteem, hopelessness, a feeling that one’s personal safety no longer exists, and even suicide. A cyber-bullying research study by Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin has shown that though the rate of suicide for young individuals has dropped by 28.5%, there have been recent rising trends of suicide or suicidal thoughts for children between the 10-19 year age group. It is a proven statistic that young people subjected to aggressive peer behavior online are 1.9 times more likely to attempt suicide as compared to in person bullying. Unfortunately, the statistics and facts have proven to be true since stories of young people committing suicide due to cyber-bullying have made headlines within the past few years. Phoebe Prince, Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, and hundreds of other young people have taken their lives because they were victims of cyber-bullying.
However, there are ways to fight back against cyber-bullying by raising awareness, being educated, and informing an adult about any online bullying incidents. Though it may seem embarrassing to report cyber-bullying to an adult, it is important to bring an end to the bullying before it spirals out of control. Furthermore, personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and email information should not be posted on social network sites. It is important to keep private information just that, private, so that bullies cannot text or email cruel comments to their victims. Parents and schools can also aid in controlling cyber-bullying by monitoring a young person’s computer use at home or at school. Social network sites such as myspace or facebook should be blocked at schools, and anti-bullying student committees can be used to educate and stop students from taking part in cyber-bullying. If parents or teachers begin to notice signs of depression, anxiety, violent outbursts, or uncharacteristic behavior from young people, it is important to get the victim the necessary help to prevent tragedies such as suicide. Preventing and combating cyber-bullying is a cause that requires cooperation between young people, schools, parents, and even the law. By working together, young people can be protected from the emotional and physical harm that can result from cyber-bullying.
Interested in making a difference in your community on addressing the impact of cyperbullying? Join the efforts of the Alliance for Positive Youth Development. We are learning and sharing best practices to address the issues impacting today’s youth.Areeba Hasan is a SISGI Group Intern working with the Alliance for Positive Youth Development, a SISGI Group initiative. She is currently a senior at Rutgers University New Brunswick, with a major in history. To learn more about the SISGI Group’s Youth Initiative please visit sisgigroup.org