Cyberbullying is an increasingly serious issue in today’s society. The internet has given bullies a new, arguably more effective avenue to unleash terror and intimidation on their victims. Youth are the most vulnerable demographic group affected by cyber bullies, understandably because they comprise the biggest population of social media users. Owing to the seriousness of the issue, it is imperative that stakeholders try to devise measures to minimize cyberbullying with a view to protecting the victims who are almost always the young, unsuspecting internet users. This essay argues that although some analysts state that parents are to blame for increased cases of cyberbullying because they do not look after their children as responsibly as they should, the nature of today’s society and the new technological advancements makes it hard for parents to effectively control how the youngsters use these technologies.
Technological advancements and Tools
Alvarez defines cyberbullying as the intentional bullying or harassment of another person using technology including text, cell phones, pagers, computers, websites, chat rooms, instant messages and social networking” (1207). From this definition, it may be seen that the main factor that contributes to cyberbullying is the new technological advancements which, as Alvarez (1206) notes, are important in the growth and development of the children if leveraged well. Cyber bullies use social website such as Facebook and Twitter to bully their victims through such things as posting intimidating messages or pictures. Social networks have also been used by the perpetrators for exclusion, which leads to a feeling of exclusion and helplessness on the victim (Strom and Paris 48). An example in this case is a scenario where a group of friends may decide to exclude one of them from a group which the victims considers important to join. This could lead to adverse effects on the excluded friend, going as far as resulting in suicide thoughts. Cyberbullying may also take the form of posting provocative, embarrassing or intimidating messages and/or pictures on websites or blogs, in which the victim is attacked or belittled. This can cause a variety of effects, including depression and suicide, as evidenced by the highly publicized case of a 13-year-old Migan Meier (from Missouri), who was harassed via her MySpace account by an adult cyber bully who used a fake account (Froese-Germaine 44). From the foregoing scenarios, it may be seen that while parents can educate their children about cyberbullying, they would not possibly be able to control their children’s use of mobile phones, tablets and internet access.
‘Sexting’ and sending harassing messages and pictures to a victim’s mobile phone also comprise cyberbullying (Melby 1). Peer-to-peer cyberbullying can take place through exclusion in social media, sexting, or using the internet to post ‘bad’ information about the friends. It also happens when a friend posts derogatory videos or pictures on social websites such as Facebook and Youtube. As already mentioned, while parents can control their younger children, it is almost certainly impossible to check adolescents who, notably, are at a higher risk of cyberbullying.
The ready availability of the internet, as well as the ease of capturing and transmitting digital content such as photographs is one of the reasons cyberbullying is on the rise. Moreover, it is worth noting that perpetrators of cyberbullying are not able to hear, feel or hear the impact of their behavior on their victims, which removes the possibility of empathy (Froese-Germaine 44). As a consequence, the perpetrator goes on with their actions, sometimes oblivious of the impact their actions on the victim.
What is more, the fact that cyberbullying victims more often than not do not report the incidences could be said to be contributing to the rise of the vice. According to Froese-Germaine, “few victims reported the abuse to either parents or teachers” (45), which implies that their parents do not know what their children are undergoing? The social media allows users to connect with people from all parts of the globe. Teenagers often find this thrilling and are willing to befriend people they do not know, going as far as sharing personal and private information such as residences and provocative pictures. Perpetrators are likely to use such information to harass these unsuspecting youngsters (Langos 286), something against which parents have limited power. Lastly, there have been incidences of account hacking where cyber bullies gain unauthorized access of their victims’ accounts and unleash their malice by posting offensive messages in a way that appears as if it is the actual user posting. This hurts the reputation of the actual users and can lead to peer-to-peer cyberbullying in turn.
The people claiming that parental negligence contributes to cyberbullying state that parents have failed in guiding their children on how to use the intern and other technological developments, as well as restricting access to internet and technological gadgets at home.. However, it is worth noting that as Fleming says, a majority of parents, teachers and other people advice the youth and give them warnings, “but even a cursory perusal of these sites suggests that many students are not listening” (28). Teenagers are almost naturally defiant and exploring at that age and would make all efforts to get access to the technological tools at school or from friends, if their parents denied them access. Fleming (28) and Langos (286) underscore the need to adopt better, youth friendly methods to create awareness of the risks associated with irresponsible use of the aforementioned technological tools. This would likely cause the young internet users to exercise caution to avoid cyberbullying which can occur even to innocent cyberspace users. Creating awareness about this issue can lead to positive outcomes, such as victims reporting cyberbullying at the first incidence, thinking beforehand when posting content on social media and other websites and exercising caution when ‘friending’ people on the internet. Instead of blaming the parents who are often powerless as far as protecting their children against cyberbullying is concerned (due to the nature of the technological tools and the rebellious nature and indiscretion of the adolescents), stricter laws could be made and implemented, and extensive awareness campaigns undertaken to protect internet users. Counseling of victims could help reduce the emotional and physical impact of cyberbullying (Alvarez 1206).
All in all, cyberbullying is a serious issue which needs to be addressed with urgency and reason. While the parents have a duty to protect their children, it is noteworthy that the nature of the technological developments that are used to perpetuate cyberbullying makes it difficult for the parents to control and protect their children against the vice. It is imperative that all stakeholders take initiatives to curb cybercrime instead of blaming the parents.
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Fleming, Dana L. “Youthful Indiscretions: Should Colleges Protect Social Networkers from
Themselves and Others?” New England Journal of Higher Education 22.4
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Froese-Germaine. “Bullying Gets Digital Shot-in-the-Arm”. Education Canada 48.4 (2008): 44-
Langos, Colette. “Cyberbullying: The Challenge to Define”. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and
Social Networking 15.6 (2012): 285-289. Print.
Melby, Todd. “Hello PBF!” Contemporary Sexuality Nov. 2011: +1. Print.
Strom, Robert, and Paris Strom. “Growing Up with Social Networks and Online Communities”.
Education Digest Sept. 12: 48-51. Print.