Cyberbullying is harassment through virtual or electronic means, usually done anonymously. In simpler terms, it is harassing people about specific things about their personality across the Internet. Most of these cases were reported on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Hence, it is imperative to discuss this malignant societal variation because of how the Internet, especially social media, has become part and parcel of our everyday lives.
“Cyberbullying is not a spectator sport. When and if you see it happening, resist, stay informed and aware of how you can help and take some steps to champion against it.” ― Germany Kent.
According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of United States teens have been victims of one of six types of abusive online behaviors. The offensive online actions and the percentages of those polled (743 teens and 1,058 parents living in the U.S. conducted March 7 to April 10, 2018) are as follows: Offensive name-calling (42%); spreading of false rumors (32%); receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for (25%); constant asking of where they are, what they are doing, who they’re with, by someone other than their parent (21%); physical threats (16%); and having an explicit image of them shared without their consent (7%).
There are various initiatives out there for fighting against cyberbullying. The Megan Meier Foundation is one such organization. It is an organization founded by Tina Meier in 2007 in commemoration of the life of her daughter, Megan after she fell victim to cyberbullying and took her own life. Their mission and vision are “To Support and Inspire Actions to End Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide,” and “To live in a world where bullying and cyberbullying no longer exist,” respectively. The Megan Meier Foundation published a report in 2016, stating that 64% of students enrolled in weight loss programs due to weight-based bullying and online harassment because of their weight.
While most of the cyberbullying victims may be reportedly showing no physical or long-lasting adverse reaction per se, or even taking the insults well like a duck on the water; however, there could be a set of negatively affected people with scars to show for the abuse they faced. Some signs of cyberbullying are as follows: abnormal mood changes (e.g., heightened depression, fear, or anxiety); skipping school or generally avoiding friends or school activities; nervousness; sleeping and eating disorders, an aversion to technology, etc. Some people have been known to take their lives because of depression exacerbated by cyberbullying. For this reason, many are referring to cyberbullying as the new face of bullying.
There is a correlation between the growth of social media platforms and an increase in cyberbullying rate. It seems that this is a significant reason why cyberbullying has grown into the menace it is today. These days, having two thousand followers on Twitter has been translated into being a famous person. People who lack standard social interaction etiquette have begun to consider their opinions on social media as an essential contribution to everyday social interaction. As a result, they feel they can harass anyone without concern for the effects of their words.
Here’s a real-life example that took place, albeit the actual persons’ names are held back as anonymous. A young man made a post on Twitter, which he claimed was factual, and about three hundred persons had retweeted this story. Down the road, a lady with a not so attractive avatar came on the tweet to denounce the Tweet, posting verifiable evidence that the claim wasn’t exactly accurate as the young man claimed. She encouraged people to make an extra effort to verify the information before retweeting them, especially on social media, since information reaches millions of people quickly online.
Any sane person would have appreciated the young lady’s effort to rectify the original poster’s misinformation, but most social media persons are not exactly reasonable. So, the young man clicked on the lady’s avatar, saved the image, and started to cast aspersions on her person. He leveraged that he had a significant online following on Twitter to get back at the lady who called him out. He accused her of not minding her business on social media because she was ugly. People on social media, male and female alike, began to retweet the post, asking people to stay in their lane and mind their business.
While social media can be a fun way of interacting, it is necessary to sometimes think about its effect. In this instance, the girl in question was utterly unknown to the bully. None of the people who joined in bashing her was aware of her mental and emotional state. The only way anyone could confirm she was alive was because her Twitter account continued to function normally. There are reports where ‘slight’ things like this have driven people into a heightened state of depression and forced many to take their lives. The psychology of a cyberbully is something that needs examination. Cyberbullies can be from any race, gender, social class, or sexual orientation.
A victim of cyberbullying in one scenario can be a perpetrator in another situation, depending on the issue at hand. It is a phenomenon that arises as a result of the innate need to be respected. Unfortunately, this need is manifested by the tendency to put others down. Many who become bullies themselves do so because they suffer from an inferiority complex and are just lashing out to feel better about themselves. Cyberbullies master the art of telescoping the vices they are suffering from unto unsuspecting victims. If they are not having a good day, then no one will have a good day around them.
The COVID-19 Pandemic led to the global lockdown that lasted through most of the year in 2020. Due to this, many social interactions transitioned online. Because of this transition, there is likely an increase in cyberbullying, especially among the younger generation. Hence, for parents, there is a need to be cognizant of what your wards are doing online. It would be very careless of parents not to engage their children to ascertain their psychological state of mind. If there is any cyberbullying, you can help squelch any sign of hostile virtual engagements via your engagement.
Be the responsible parent and be aware of what your children are doing online? We are in the age of Fortnite, where kids are interacting with their friends, classmates, and sometimes strangers online—are you 100% sure that they are not victims of cyberbullying. Be the responsible parent and be aware of their state and what they are doing in the virtual. Do not be a careless parent that does not show any concern with what your kids are doing in the virtual world. Be smart, be wise, and be proactive in preserving the innocence of your wards. Let’s stop cyberbullying at its tracks.
Are you a victim of cyberbullying? Do not keep silent. Do not drown in depression. Speak up and share your experiences with your parents if you are a young victim. Keeping quiet means that you are letting the cyberbully win. Don’t be the victim! Don’t be the loser! Help is only an ask away—provided you are communicating with the right person that can counsel you in such a situation. Speaking up gives you the power to regain your confidence and become victorious against the cyberbully’s aspersions. It would be best if you took the bulls of bullying by the horn and fight. Ask for help in the right quarters, and you will receive it. Seek assistance, and you will find the right resources to help yourself. Knock on the right doors, and the excellent service you need will let you in.
You are not alone. Get Help Now! Are you a victim of cyberbullying, then make it a duty to get the help y that you need in your situation? Are you or someone you know at immediate risk of harm? You can report this to the authorities—Call 911. Are you feeling hopeless, helpless, or even thinking of suicide? That is not the best way out of your situation. Talk to someone by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Are you acting differently than usual? Are you always sad or anxious, or even struggling to complete tasks? Talk to someone. Are you being cyberbullied in school online—then talk to your teacher, school counselor, principal, etc.? No matter what, don’t give up—Help is out there—Seek it out.
“Checking in on what our kids are doing online isn’t ‘helicoptering,’ it’s ‘parenting.” ― Galit Breen.
We have the power to change the rising trend of cyberbullying. First, there is a need for a fierce online campaign to educate users of social media sites about the possibility of harming the mental and psychological health of others with words and memes. Second, there must be stricter penalties for hate speech and other forms of degrading use of words. Taking this measure will eventually make social media a safe space for positive interaction. Third, don’t let it sink in—Don’t allow the rain of the cyberbully’s assaults to slip into your subconscious. No one deserves to be oppressed. Fourth, eschew any form of retaliation; it turns you into a bully too. Fifth, save the breadcrumbs or evidence. Should the case escalate, the evidence created by the cyber troll will be used to bring them down. Finally, sixth, speak out! You must reach out for help!