Bullying has been a problem in our society for many years, and it has been done in many ways. Throughout the years there have been many children who were bullied at school by their peers. However, when the world began to change with the introduction of technology, the techniques of bullying changed, as well. A bully can abuse their victim either physically or mentally, so they are able to obtain a sense of superiority and power (Donegan, 2012). In the past, when children were bullied this usually meant that they were being tormented by others while at school. The bullies were either making direct actions, such as hitting or verbally assaulting a peer face-to-face, or indirect, such as spreading rumors and gossip. The children were usually making nasty comments to others while in their presence, and/or saying unfriendly things about them to other students. Today, bullying is much easier. Most children are cyberbullying instead, which is bullying through the use of social media sites, cell phones, chat rooms, and various other technological methods.
Cyberbullying occurs more often than many people think, and it is continuing to rise. In May 2007, the rate of cyberbullying victimization was 18.8% and increased to 28.7% in November 2009; there was a 27.32% mean based on 7 different studies from May 2007 to February 2010 (Donegan, 2012). One of the ways in which technology makes cyberbullying easier than bullying in the past is that children can remain anonymous when using the internet. By doing so, they do not have to worry about getting into trouble for the harsh things they say to their peers. For example, when using a social media site such as Facebook, children can set up an account under a different name and not be able to get identified by the person they are harassing. They can also use the name of someone else, which could cause problems for additional people by getting them involved.
With the invention of chat rooms, large amounts of children could start speaking negatively to each other. When text messaging became more frequent, this enabled them to have negative one-on-one conversations. This can add to the varieties of children who are possible victims. For example, in the past it would have been less likely for a smaller child to begin bullying one of their larger peers face-to-face. Now that they can say spiteful things without being identified, this opens up new windows of opportunities to hurt others. Blogging is another new popular trend in cyberbullying. There have been many sites that include cruel topics, and have caused heated debates because of their content. For example, the sites used by college age youth, College ACB and Juicy Campus, contained topics such as “Most Attractive” and “Worst Hookup” (Donegan, 2012). In these sites, people’s names can be listed under these titles and in addition, offensive comments could be posted with them. This can be extremely upsetting to the people who see that they are on these lists. It also makes it possible for people to say something in person to someone they have seen listed on the sites, which can be even more upsetting and distressful. Because of this, the sites College ACB and Juicy Campus were both faced with more rules and regulations to help limit the types of comments that are posted. Unfortunately, while there might be more control over what is said in sites such as these, the content can still contain statements that are harmful.
The long amount of time children spend on the internet allows them much more time to emotionally and mentally harm their peers than in the past. It was recently discovered that 92% of teens 13-17 years old are online every day, 24% are on “almost constantly,” with only 12% using the internet once a day, 6% weekly, and only 2% less than that (Lenhart, 2015). The main areas of social media in which these teens communicate with each other include Facebook (71%), Instagram (approximately 50%), and Snapchat (40%), which are excellent opportunities for cyberbullying (Lenhart, 2015). The increased use of the mobile devices such as smart phones, has played a role in how easy it is to simply get online and bully whoever they want, whenever they want, just by picking up a phone. This can make it difficult for adults to determine when a child is cyberbullying. It may look as if they are doing things online such as playing games or looking at various websites. They may even be on social media sites, but adults might not realize that the child is cyberbullying one of their peers, not making friendly statements.
Some people might not realize the extreme effects of cyberbullying because it is something that happens online. They might think that because it is not something that happens in person, victims should not have a problem with it. While there is a possibility that not every child who is cyberbullied will not be affected, a majority of them are. Cyberbullying can be detrimental to the victim’s self-esteem and emotional health. The types of feelings this causes is disturbing. In a study of more than 3,000 students, it was discovered that “38 percent of bully victims felt vengeful, 37 percent were angry and 24 percent felt helpless” (Donegan, 2012, p. 36). This helps demonstrate the horrible effects that cyberbullying can cause, and that something needs to be done.
At the federal level, it has been stated that in order for a school to take action a court needs to determine if the statements could be interpreted as serious expressions of intent to harm or assault (Donegan, 2012). In cyberbullying cases, the statements that would be used are often those which were not sent while on school property. This makes things somewhat different than in the past, as schools are using a student’s speech from when they were not on school property. Because there are many different ways cyberbullying can occur, most states have their own laws. For example, in Missouri, electric communication that “knowingly frightens, intimidates, or causes emotional distress,” is illegal (Donegan, 2012).
Cyberbullying can make life extremely stressful and emotionally painful for those who experience it. It is necessary to make sure that parents are aware of this topic, and speak to their children about the matter. If they believe that their children are involved in it, either the victim or the bully, they need to make sure it stops. While there might be laws to help reduce the problem, this does not necessarily mean that it will do much. Schools should be involved in the issue, and have options available for students who are the victims. By doing so, this could help those who are being bullied.
Donegan, R. (2012). Bullying and cyberbullying: History, statistics, law, prevention and
analysis. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 3, (1), 33-42.
Retrieved from: https://www.elon.edu/docs/e-
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, social media, & technology overview 2015. Pew Research
Center. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-